Friday, July 02, 2004

U.S. – Florida – Many Disenfranchised Felons Get Back the Right to Vote

Florida must release the names of suspected felons it wants purged from voter registration rolls so that names can be checked to avoid the errors that occurred in the state’s disputed 2000 election.

A similar purge list in 2000 contained more than 2,100 eligible voters that were barred from the state’s presidential balloting. The errors also allowed some ineligible voters to obtain ballots.

At present a “Florida Division of Elections” database lists more than 47,000 people the department said may be ineligible because of felony records. The state is directing local elections offices to “check the list and scrub felons from the voter rolls.”

Florida permanently bars convicted felons from voting unless they have undergone an administrative process to have their civil rights restored after serving their sentences.

In May, the state Department of Elections identified 47,763 people who may not be eligible to vote because of felony convictions and urged county election supervisors to verify the lists and purge the voter registration rolls accordingly.

There are many problems with the list, one of which is that the list may not be complete. Some names are of people who have regained their rights. It will be difficult to be fair and accurate, especially with little time remaining before the election in November. Never-the-less, local offices are required to do what has been “vetted at the highest level.”

Many of those that should have had their names removed from the list are Black, and 62 percent are Democrat. Less than 20 percent are Republican.

Some people on the list had their voting rights returned decades ago, yet were not told until recently. Officials are to tell by comparing names, birthdates, Social Security numbers, and other information. These people should have received certified letters to name a time and place to “explain why they should remain on the voting rolls.” People must respond within 30 days or their names will be removed.

In Dade County, a private company has been hired to investigate the 365 names that appear on the ineligible list. It’s a big mess that may not be cleared up before the November election.

We certainly don’t want a repeat of the 2000 election spectacle with hanging and pregnant chads. The punch card machines have been replaced by an “up-to-date touch screen system.” However, these, too are controversial as there is no paper verification in case of a recount. This isn’t rocket science. Why didn’t someone anticipate this problem?


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