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Outcry raised over voter ID law

TAMPA — With Monday's deadline for voter registration looming, a new law has brought cries from advocacy groups about potential disenfranchisement.

The law, known as "No Match, No Vote," requires that people registering to vote show a driver's license number or Social Security number that corresponds to those in a government database. The law went into effect Sept. 8 and does not affect people who registered before that date.

But some have argued that minorities are unfairly targeted because they often have names with difficult spellings that may be wrong in the state's database.

Bill Newton, director of the Florida Consumer Action Network, a voters' advocacy group, said the reason behind the requirements — preventing voting fraud — is unfounded.

"It just simply does not happen," Newton said of fraud. "The intent is keeping certain people from voting."

At a Tuesday press conference outside the Hillsborough County Center, which houses the Supervisor of Elections Office, Newton called for Gov. Charlie Crist to suspend the law until after Election Day. The conference was organized by 12 groups across the state. There were similar events in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

Paula Villarreal of the Florida Immigration Coalition said Hispanic voters' last names are often two or more words long. One ID card may list a last name as De La Puente Hernandez, while another ID or database might just list Hernandez.

Crist, through a spokesman, said he doesn't have the authority to change or suspend the law.

In a news release Sept. 18, the Department of State said the law was reviewed by the Justice Department in 2005 and was not found to deny votes of any group.

But Newton is not convinced. He said tighter regulations send the wrong message, especially to those with language barriers who have a difficult enough time as it is.

"All these little obstacles make it harder," Newton said. "You don't take draconian steps to solve a problem that may not even exist."

Kim Wilmath can be reached at kwilmath@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3386.

.Fast facts

The new voting law

DEADLINE: To vote on Nov. 4, people must register by Monday. Contact Supervisor of Elections Office to register. Voters must vote in the precinct where they live — proven by the address on the voter identification card. The address on other photo IDs need not match.

IDENTIFICATION: On Election Day, bring an ID with a photo or signature. Approved IDs include drivers' licenses, Florida ID cards from the Department of Motor Vehicles, U.S. passports, debit or credit cards, military or student IDs, retirement center IDs, neighborhood association IDs and public assistance IDs.

"NO MATCH, NO VOTE": Voters with problem registrations will get letters seeking proof of identity. Hillsborough has sent 318 letters since Sept. 8, and Pinellas has sent 266, according to each elections office.

Outcry raised over voter ID law 09/30/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 2, 2008 2:14pm]
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