REPUBLICANS SEIZE ON ACT USING FELONS - Mitch Perry

06/24/04

Yesterday the Asssociated Press reported that an independent group playing an important part for John Kerry's presidential campaign here in Florida and in other states - has paid felons - some convicted of sex offenses, assault and burglary - to conduct door-to -door registration drives.

The group - America Coming Together, is an independent organization, independent of the Democrat Party party, but has been working to register new, preferably Democratic voters.

The AP reported that America Coming Together, or ACT - uses convicted criminals as voter canvassers in Florida, Missouri, Ohio, and perhaps in other states among the 17 battleground states it's targeting. They report that some have lived in halfway houses, and in 4 different cases, ACT workers have returned to prisons.

Karen Johansan is the State Director for Florida ACT . She says that though their organization proudly has hired former felons, they DO have guidelines (roll tape#1 o.q."in the past 15 years")

There is no law against felons registering others to vote. WMNF asked Karen Johansan from Florida ACT if she believes the general tone of the AP article is unfair (roll tape#2 o.q. "something wrong with that")

The national Republican Party immediately seized on the story...Scott Hogensen is a spokesman for the National Republican Party in Washington. (roll tape#3 o.q. "on the other side")

ACT canvassers ask residents which issues are important to them and, if they are not registered, sign them up as voters. They gather telephone numbers and other personal information, such as driver's license numbers or partial Social Security numbers, depending on what a state requires for voter registration.

IN their article, the AP reports that back in April, the Missouri Department of Corrections back banished America Coming Together from its pool of potential employers for parolees in its halfway houses in Kansas City and St. Louis. State officials said they didn't want to put offenders in situations where they collect such personal information

A spokewoman for the John Kerry campaign, Allison Dobson, says the campaign has NO coordination with ACT, and said of their policy of employing felons, "We're unaware of it, and have nothing to do with it. "

But the Republicans aren't about to let the Kerry campaign off the hook

Again, RNC spokesperson Scott Hogenson (roll tape#4 o.q."to elect John Kerry")

So far, organizers for America Coming Together in Florida says they've had immense success in registering new voters. They say they've hired 170 canvassers, knocked on 300,000 doors without incident, and registered more than 30,000 voters.

WMFN asked America Coming Together if they worried that their work in the coming months could be jeopardized, by fears invoked by the article and stoked by the Republican Party (roll tape#5 o.q."in plain site")

Sterling Ivey, spokesman for the Florida Department of Corrections, said that in Florida, most felons released from prison are not on parole or probation.

In recent weeks as focus has intensified regarding a new list of nearly 48,000 Floridians listed as felons who may scrubbed off the voting rolls, there has been some sentiment to reverse the ancient law that prohibits felons from voting in the state without going through an onerous process. Florida is one of only 7 states that prohibit ex-felons from automatically restoring their civil rights.

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