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Minorities bear brunt of 'subtler' bias at US polls, report says

WASHINGTON -- The old methods of US discrimination at the polls have been replaced by ''subtler and more creative tactics," according to a report released yesterday.

Julian Bond, the board chairman of the civil rights group NAACP, voiced special concerns about attempts to turn away minority voters.

''Minority voters bear the brunt of every form of disenfranchisement, including pernicious efforts to keep them away from the polls," Bond said in a statement.

The statement said the report, by the NAACP and People for the American Way Foundation, found that the kinds of voter intimidation found in the past -- discriminatory literacy tests, poll taxes, and physical violence -- have been supplanted by other methods, including:

A plan in Kentucky to place ''vote challengers" in African-American precincts during the upcoming elections.

The use of armed, plainclothes officers from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to question elderly black voters in Orlando as part of a state investigation of voting irregularities in the city's 2003 mayoral race, which critics said intimidated black voters, potentially suppressing this year's turnout.

The barring of Native Americans from voting in South Dakota's June primary after they were challenged to provide photo identification, which is not required by state or federal law.

In a separate development, the AFL-CIO union federation said it will watch for any attempt to reprise voting-rights violations that marred the 2000 election. Voting irregularities in Florida threw the presidential contest four years ago into a muddle that was decided by the US Supreme Court, putting Republican George W. Bush into office even though Democrat Al Gore won the popular vote.

''We're particularly concerned about treatment of African-Americans, Latino, Asian-American, and Native American voters, who were disproportionately disenfranchised in the 2000 federal elections," the AFL-CIO's Cecelie Counts said in a statement.

The AFL-CIO, which represents 13 million workers in 60 labor unions, plans to work in 12 states where the 2004 presidential election is expected to be close, calling attention to changes in election procedures, voter education, and possible technical problems. The labor federation will focus on communities in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Washington state, and Wisconsin.

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