Thursday, July 15, 2004

Felony to be a Democrat in Florida
Three years after Gov. Jeb Bush announced a new voting system that he called 'a model for the rest of the nation,' Florida is grappling with some of the same problems that threw the 2000 presidential election into chaos, as well as new ones that critics say could cause even more confusion illegitimacy this November.
The controversy over the new equipment is just one of Florida's challenges, which also include confirming which voters are ineligible, training poll workers on new policies and processing a flood of new registrations.

State officials announced on Saturday that they would throw out a controversial list used to remove felons from the voting rolls, acknowledging that Hispanic felons were absent from the list. Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood, appointed by Governor Bush last year, had earlier dismissed concerns from lawmakers and advocacy groups about the list of 48,000 suspected felons, which the state made public only after a judge's order.
The Republican-led Legislature quickly passed an overhaul of the voting system in 2001, banning the punch-card ballots that caused so much trouble in 2000, giving counties money for new voting equipment and setting recount guidelines. It adopted two-thirds of the recommendations from a bipartisan task force that Governor Bush appointed after the 2000 election, but stayed away from some of the more contentious issues.

Most notably, lawmakers passed over recommendations to make the positions of county elections supervisors nonpartisan and to review the state's policy of permanently stripping felons of voting rights. The package that the Legislature adopted has played a role in the new turmoil. Tucked into the law was a provision keeping registration records secret. A state judge struck it down on July 2, opening the way for a close examination of the list of suspected felons to purge from the rolls.

Newspapers then reported that the list had a simple but glaring flaw: it guaranteed that no Hispanics, who tend to vote Republican here, would be purged, while thousands of blacks, who tend to vote Democratic, might be purged. Governor Bush moved quickly to drop it, but he was too late to avoid accusations from Democratic lawmakers and groups. The critics have denounced the effort to keep the list secret, the touch-screen problems and other troubles as purposeful efforts by Florida's Republican leadership to give President Bush an advantage here.[Nitpicker emphasis/editorialization]
Okay, so it's not a felony to be a Democrat, it's merely that only Democratic felons lose their right to vote in Florida. A model system? Let's hope not.


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