Voting concerns persist around the country

10/09/08 Seán Kinane
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When Floridians vote on Nov. 4, four factors could come together to cause long lines.

All Floridians will vote on optical scan machines, including those in counties that until recently used touch screen machines. The ballot is long, with many political races and ballot initiatives. Many more people are registered to vote. And finally, voter enthusiasm is high for what many regard as an historic presidential election.

At the same time, some people who try to register are not being allowed onto voter rolls because of problems with matching their identification. Florida is not alone, concerns about voting issues are occurring in several states throughout the country.

The Advancement Project released a report on Thursday called The End of the Line?, predicting long lines in many of the country’s minority voting precincts.

Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project, said they compared expected turnout in several places in the country with the resources available at polling locations to see if the system could handle the increased volume. The study of resources such as machines and poll workers focused on what Browne-Dianis called the new battleground states.

“In places like Virginia and Pennsylvania, elections officials are not prepared for the turnout,” she said.

Twenty-three million more voters cast ballots in primaries this year than ever before, Browne-Dianis said; that should translate to increased voter turnout on Nov. 4. She said it’s important that “elections officials take the steps necessary to meet the need.”

Browne-Dianis is concerned about long lines at polls because that could discourage minority voters who don’t have the luxury of taking hours off work to vote.

The report looked at expected turnout by precinct in six Florida counties, including Hillsborough. But it couldn’t look at allocation of resources because, Browne-Dianis said, most elections officials did not provide that information through Freedom of Information requests.

They found an increase of 33,000 registered voters in Hillsborough from January through July. Browne-Dianis encourages Floridians to vote early, which she said might factor in to reduce the wait time on Election Day.

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said that lines shouldn’t be a problem in his county.

Browne-Dianis said the Advancement Project is part of a lawsuit against the state trying to stop Florida’s No Match, No Vote law, which requires that a person’s name and identification numbers match exactly in order to be added to the voting rolls. It has been applied to new registrations since Sept. 8.

Browne-Dianis said the lawsuit is still in federal court.

In a New York Times article on Thursday, Florida was criticized, along with South Dakota, Iowa and Louisiana, as states that flag voter registrations without exact database matches, but also will not allow flagged voters back on the rolls until after the confusion has been resolved. The same article said that in Colorado, Louisiana, and Michigan the number of names purged from voter rolls since Aug. 1 far exceeds the number of people who died or moved out of those states during that time. In addition, the article reported that the commissioner of the Social Security Administration sent a letter to the Justice Department and to Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio warning that those states may be in violation of federal law by accessing the Social Security database more frequently than allowed.

WMNF attempted to speak with the Social Security Administration, but they did not contact us by deadline.

Adam Skaggs, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York School of Law, said if people who should be allowed to vote were purged in violation of the Help America Vote Act of 2002, a lawsuit might be required.

Skaggs recommends that voters check with their supervisor of elections office to confirm that they are registered.

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said nobody who should be allowed to vote will be kept from doing so.

Last week, Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said that between Sept. 8, when the No Match, No Vote law began to be applied, and Oct. 3 there were nearly 229,000 new registrations. Of those, nearly 33,000 had match problems at first. More than 10,000 voters were notified by mail and 3,000 of those problems had been resolved.

The deadline to register to vote on Nov. 4 has passed. Early voting begins on Oct. 20.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

Letter from Social Security Administration Commissioner

The End of the Line?

Voter Purges report by the Brennan Center for Justice

NY Times article

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