No match, No Vote law causes confusion

09/30/08 Seán Kinane
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Proponents of Florida’s new “No Match, No Vote” law say it is a way to make sure that only people who are eligible should be able to cast a ballot on Election Day. The law says that a person’s name and identification numbers must match exactly in order to be eligible to vote.

But civil rights and voters’ rights group say the law is a political tool designed to disenfranchise Democratic voters.

Bill Newton, executive director of the Florida Consumer Action Network (FCAN) called on Gov. Charlie Crist "to suspend the controversial No Match law. We’re very concerned about voters being disenfranchised because of this …Because of a technicality they may be denied their rights.”

Aida Cruz recently registered to vote on the day she became a U.S. citizen. But she is worried that when she goes to the polls to vote in her first election, she may be turned away. The name on her driver’s license, Aida Altagracia Cruz de Acevedo was her full legal name before her husband died. But now she goes simply by Aida A. Cruz, the name on her voter registration card. Cruz visited the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office in downtown Tampa on Tuesday to find out whether she will be able to vote.

After about 20 minutes of phone calls, Director of Operations Tim Bridge assured Cruz that she would be able to vote. The Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office found Cruz in their database of eligible voters. She was told that if her driver’s license contained the name Cruz and had her correct address, photo and signature she would not have a problem.

Cruz said she plans on voting early just in case there is a problem. The woman who translated for Cruz, Carmen Acosta, is a member of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1199. Acosta said potential disenfranchisement from No Match, No Vote is not an isolated concern.

A coalition of 12 organizations held press conferences around the state on Tuesday to call on Crist to suspend the law. The Secretary of State’s office began enforcing the law earlier this month after a court upheld it in June. No Match, No Vote calls for newly registered voters to verify their identity by providing numbers from their driver’s license, state-issued ID card or Social Security card. Part of the Social Security number is either sent to the Social Security Administration in Washington or to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles for verification.

Proponents say the is designed to reduce voter fraud -- where a person who is ineligible to vote attempts to vote. But FCAN’s Bill Newton said voter fraud is a red herring, there just are not many documented cases.

Voters who are not listed on the rolls can cast what’s called a provisional ballot, which may be counted after Election Day if the voter can prove she or he should have been allowed to vote.

Author Greg Palast has called provisional ballots “back of the bus ballots.” Newton agrees that provisional ballots are not an appropriate answer.

Paula Villareal is a coordinator with Sueno Americano and is a member of Florida Immigrant Coalition. She spoke at a press conference Tuesday morning outside the County Building in downtown Tampa, home of the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Office. Villareal said No Match, No Vote was part of a political campaign to “restrict the vote and confuse their communities.”

“The McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee have been attacking the work of groups that register citizens to vote and mailings have been sent to voters telling them they are registered with the incorrect party.”

WMNF attempted to speak with Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, but he did not return our calls by air time.

Florida’s Secretary of State Kurt Browning was out of the country and unavailable.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 6. Early voting for the Nov. 4 election begins on Oct. 20.

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF

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