Tuesday, July 13, 2004

ELECTORAL NIGHTMARE IN THE MAKING?

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By William Fisher

Are we headed for another 2000 election?

That was the inevitable question triggered by Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood’s decision to scrap a list intended to keep more than 47,000 suspected felons from voting in November.

The reason? The list included only 61 Hispanic names. There are millions of Hispanics in Florida, and the state's large Cuban population tends to vote Republican. And all but 61 of them are upstanding, law-abiding citizens? Right!

What we have here – and without implying that the administration of Governor Jeb Bush, the president’s brother, had the slightest political interest in reducing Hispanic felons to the virtual vanishing point – is another electoral nightmare in the making.

Wait, it gets worse. Without the list to guide them, it is now up to each of the State’s 47 county supervisors to compile and verify their own lists of former felons who should not be allowed to vote. Some county supervisors throughout the State doubt they have the capacity or the time to develop the lists and verify the names before November. And many Florida counties are not famous for their speed, thoroughness, or efficiency.

So if they can’t meet the deadline? What then? Then Florida’s election returns will again be suspect, and again headed for the courts.

In 2000, State officials acknowledged -- after the election -- that a similar list contained thousands of names in error. These people were barred from voting, and many of them were African-Americans, who traditionally tend to vote Democratic. President Bush was said to have won the state by 537 votes after the US Supreme Court refused a recount.

This year’s suspect list was created by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The apparent exclusion of Hispanic names was characterized by a State official as “an honest mistake caused when two databases were merged”.

Florida is one of seven states that bar felons who have served their sentences from voting, unless they have been granted clemency and re-registered to vote. Felons who vote without having been granted clemency are guilty of committing a felony.

Watch this space!











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