Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

2 percent of Florida's vote can spark a battle

Four little words are generating a lot of noise in Florida. It's another sign of how high the stakes are this election year.

The words: "No match, no vote."

They refer to a state law requiring that to register to vote, a person's driver's license number or last four digits of a Social Security number must match numbers in a government database. The requirement took effect Sept. 8.

If there's no match, a county election supervisor must notify the would-be voter, who must rectify the problem by providing proof in person, by mail, fax or e-mail of a matching number. If proof is still lacking, the voter can cast a provisional ballot and has until two days after the election to clarify things.

Some matches fail because of typographical errors by clerks, or illegible handwriting by a would-be voter. The state insists it catches most of those by comparing the database with the scanned copy of the application form.

The Legislature passed the requirement in 2005. Most Republicans voted yes and nearly all 43 opponents were Democrats, the first sign that the exact-match rule was seen as a partisan act that could help Republicans and hurt Democrats.

The NAACP, Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition and others sued to strike down "no match, no vote" in 2007. They claimed poor and minority voters would be most affected.

The League of Women Voters notes that some African-Americans use nontraditional spellings of first names and some Hispanics use paternal and maternal last names.

They lost their lawsuit when U.S. District Judge Stephan Mickle refused to grant an injunction in June. Citing past absentee ballot fraud in Florida, the judge said the law "is justified by the state's compelling interest in fair and honest elections."

Mickle noted that over a 21-month period, the numbers matched in 98 percent of 1.5-million voter registration forms. Critics would argue a 2 percent no-match rate — about 31,000 — is plenty of disenfranchisement in a state where 537 votes once decided the presidency.

Having lost in court, the advocacy groups fault Secretary of State Kurt Browning for insisting the law be enforced less than two months before the election — too late to work out the bugs, his critics contend.

Common Cause issued a study on election laws in 10 swing states this week. The author faulted Florida's exact-match standard and said it amounts to vote suppression.

"To go back and try to prove your identity — how many people are going to take that step?" asked Tova Wang of the Century Foundation.

The talk frustrates Browning. He's careful not to accuse his critics of an agenda (to get Barack Obama elected) but the criticism is intensifying.

He heard it when he sat for TV interviews in Tampa and Orlando on Friday, and he may hear it Tuesday on NBC's Today show in a segment on election preparations in battleground states.

"I'm not anti-voter registration," Browning said. "All I'm saying is, complete the form legally, and you shouldn't have a problem."

The real test will come in October, as election supervisors process thousands of registration forms, many collected by third-party groups.

The registration deadline is Oct. 6.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

2 percent of Florida's vote can spark a battle 09/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, September 25, 2008 6:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  2. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day

    K12

    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Cuban media treats visit by Tampa City Council as historic event

    Politics

    TAMPA — Delegations of one kind or another have been traveling from Tampa to Cuba for years, even before President Barack Obama took steps to normalize relations between the two countries in December 2014.

    A Tampa delegation to Cuba this week was featured prominently in reports by the state-run media in Cuba, including Granma. From left are Tampa City Council vice chair Harry Cohen, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice, Tampa philanthropist David Straz and Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin.
  4. As the curtain rises on the Straz Center's biggest shows, the spotlight is on parking

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The Broadway Series, the most lucrative shows of the year for the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, start this week, and this year the center wants all the drama to take place on stage, not during the drive to the theater.

    With downtown Tampa getting busier at night and on weekends, city officials and administrators from the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts have been working on ways to unsnarl traffic and help visitors find parking when there are lots of events at the same time. CHRIS ZUPPA   |   Times (2009)

  5. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 
Casimar Naiboa pleads for help to capture the killer of his son, Anthony Naiboa. Naiboa, 20, was shot and killed near 15th Street N. and E. Frierson Avenue after getting off the wrong bus in Seminole Heights. A peaceful march that began on east New Orleans Avenue was held during the candlelight vigil for the three victims who were killed in the recent shootings in the Seminole Heights neighborhood in Tampa on Sunday, October 22, 2017.