FELONS LIST - Mitch Perry

06/30/04

Earlier this week, a public advocacy group charged the State with more problems with the list of nearly 48,000 Floridians listed as felons who may be scrubbed from the Voter Rolls this fall.

The New York City based Brennan Center for Justice sent letters to all 67 Florida counties Monday urging them not to take action on the potential felon list. Under Florida's decentralized elections system, it's up to each county elections chief to review the list of potential felons in his county and determine which names should be purged from voter rolls.

According to a letter June 18th letter sent to the Brennan Center, Executive Clemency Coordinator Janet Keels said that agency developed a database in 1998 to "to store identifying information on individuals granted various forms of executive clemency," But because of the way records were kept prior to 1977, Keels' letter says some people whose rights were restored might NOT be included in the clemency database.

Even if their names are not in the database, Keels' letter says, "all felons, including those granted clemency prior to 1977, receive a certificate or a copy of the Executive Order signed by the governor and cabinet."

But Brennan Center associate counsel Jessie Allen said suggesting that a suspected felon produce a clemency certificate "seems to have put the burden on eligible voters instead of the state."(roll tape#1 o.q."purge process in motion")

Allen says it's completely unclear how many people had their rights restored between 1964 and 1977....She says it's not known how many people made it into the database, and much of the fault lies with the secrecy that the state has dealt with the list of over 47,000 people....

Currently, there is a lawsuit pending filed by CNN, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, and other news organizations asking for the right to obtain the names of those listed as felons in the state.

Although the State's various County Supervisors of Election are supposed to send out letters to those individuals listed as felons, virtually none have done so just 2 months before the August 31st Primary. They all received the complete list from the Secretary of State's office in early May.

The Brennan Center's Jesse Allen was asked by WMNF if she believes that it's because of increased scrutiny by groups like the Brennan Centre that is making the Supervisors of Election extra careful in who they categorize as being a felon, and thus, ineligible to vote

(roll tape#2 o.q."isn't a good enough explanation")

Sarasota Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent said that her Department is scrutinizing the list of purported felons that she received from Tallahassee, but is NOT close to sending out letters to those citizens (roll tape#3 o.q."be finished")

State Election officials criticized the Brennan Center earlier this month when they reported that the state's new database may not be including the names of thousands of people who had their voting rights restored by the state of Florida during a nearly 40-year period.

To the Brennan Center's Jesse Allen, it's typical of the attitude that she finds prevalent among state election officials (roll tape#4 o.q. "when in doubt, keep them out")

The deadline to register for the August 31st Primary is August 2nd....For the November election, it's October 4th.

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