FELONS LIST - Mitch Perry

07/02/04

Less than 24 hours after the release a of a database listing of more than 47,000 people that the State's Divisions of Elections says may be ineligible to vote because of felony records, the Miami Herald reported this morning that more than 2,100 such voters- many of them Black Democrats - were incorrectly listed.

The Herald reported that at least 2,119 of those names shouldn't be on the list because their rights to vote were formally restored through the state's clemency process.

That's a potentially jarring flaw, critics say, in a state that turned the 2000 presidential election to Gov. Jeb Bush's brother George on the narrowest of margins -- 537 votes.

Florida -- one of just six states that don't allow felons to vote -- has come under intense criticism over its botched attempts to purge felons since the bitterly contested 2000 presidential election, when myriad problems prompted many elections officials to ignore the purge altogether.

The new list is causing its own problems, raising more questions about the fairness and accuracy of the state's efforts to purge the voter rolls of ineligible voters.

Tony Welch is a spokesman for the National Democratic Committee in Washington, and a former Democratic Party spokesman in Florida.(roll tape#1 o.q."how wise this is to put something like this out") The Division of Elections is disputing the Herald report, saying the newspaper's analysis was incomplete and misleading.

 They say the newspaper didn't check the list with Florida Department of Law Enforcement records, so some of the people whoreceived clemency could have committed another felony and lost their voting rights again.

 Spokeswoman Nicole DeLara says voters on the list can go to the polls and, if they were removed from the voting rolls, they can use a provisional ballot until things get straightened out.

DNC Spokesperson Tony Welch says the most disappointing thing about the wrong names already discovered is that the state has had 4 years to fix these problems, and hasn't done so (roll tape#2 o.q." when that's the job of the state")

State elections officials acknowledge there may be mistakes on the list but insist they have built in safeguards to make sure eligible voters are not removed by local election offices. They say they have warned election offices to be diligent before eliminating voters, and have flagged possible cases in which voters on the list may have regained their rights.

The release of the Felons list today comes on the 40th Anniversary of the landmark Civil Rights Act, The act banned segregation in any facility offering public services and outlawed discrimination in hiring....It was followed in 1965 by the Voting Rights Act...WMNF asked Democratic Party spokesman Tony Welch if he saw any bitter irony upon this anniversary (roll tape#3 o.q."the Right to Vote")

Earlier this week, Supervisors of Election for both Hillsborough & Sarasota Counties told WMNF they are nowhere close to sending out letters to the people listed as felons in their respective counties, as they work diligently to try to verify if these people are in fact, felons who have NOT have their Civil Rights Restored.

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