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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Watchdogs decry 'no match, no vote' law



Voter advocates are incensed that Secretary of State Kurt Browning this week announced he would enforce a law that says a person is ineligible to vote if his or her identity does not match a Social Security or driver's license number.

"It's going to needlessly keep a lot of people off the rolls," Elizabeth Westfall, an attorney for the Washington-based Advancement Project, said in an interview. The law was challenged in September 2007 (story here) by groups representing African-Americans and Haitians.

"They want to keep throwing out this stuff that we are evil and that we're in the business of disenfranchising voters," Browning told the Buzz. "That's a bunch of crap."

He called the critics "sore losers" and said the state has taken every step to make sure any mismatch is carefully reviewed. "I don’t know where they get off thinking that thousands of Florida voters could be disenfranchised," he said. "What basis do they have to make that claim?"

Often times, Westfall said, clerical errors with African-American or Hispanic names can result in mix-ups during the confirmation process. Clerks can also insert wrong ID numbers.

Westfall said 16,000 people have already been affected in Florida and she fears "tens of thousands" more will be given the intense focus on the upcoming presidential election.

"That's the scary part," she said.

But Browning spokesman Jennifer Krell Davis said a 2008 law allows a person to correct any misinformation after being contact by a supervisor's office. They have up until two days until after the election to do so, she said.

And Davis noted that the plaintiffs, who lost the case in June, decided not to appeal and the window closed in July. Browning said at the time: "This law makes Florida a leader in preventing voter registration fraud so that every legitimate vote is fairly counted."

On Friday, Browning notified county elections officials he would be enforcing the new standard for the general election. (notice here) He decided it was unwise to pursue it for the primary because it would require a change in election computers.

"We don’t have a choice which laws we can and can’t enforce," Davis said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 8:46am]


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