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How Florida Could Screw Up The Election Again September 26, 2008

Posted by tkcollier in Politics.
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Back in 2002, Congress passed something called the Help America Vote Act, which was supposed to prevent eligible voters from being turned away at the polls because of unresolved paperwork issues. Under the act, these voters are entitled to cast a provisional ballot on Election Day, and their status is later investigated to determine whether their votes should be counted.

Sounds voter friendly. But a lot of things can go wrong with a provisional ballot, especially in Florida.

The Advancement Project, a national voting-rights organization, looked at the provisional ballots cast in Florida’s 2006 general election and found that more than one in every four of those ballots were disqualified.

Nearly a third of those rejected ballots were the result of the voter filling out the provisional ballot at the wrong polling place. Florida law requires that provisional ballots count only if the voter shows up at his or her correct precinct on Election Day. The Advancement Project study found that many of the “wrong precinct” votes happened because voters were being directed by confused poll workers to the incorrect precinct.

Failing to sign the provisional ballot envelope is another common reason for disqualifying the vote. And The Advancement Project study also found that Florida elections workers have been too quick to direct voters to cast provisional ballots.

“Under Florida law, voters who move are permitted to cast a regular ballot in the precinct where they reside, provided they sign an affidavit and the poll worker confirms the voters’ registration and eligibility,” the report said. “Instead, poll workers required these voters to vote by provisional ballot, the count of which is not guaranteed.”

‘No match, no vote’ law

And there are going to be many more provisional ballots this year.

That’s because as Florida’s elections offices are being inundated with new voter applications, the state resumed enforcing a controversial “No match, no vote” law, which is geared at weeding out voters whose identification doesn’t match state database information.

The law, which was passed by Florida’s Republican-led legislature three years ago, is aimed at curbing voter fraud by matching voter names with driver license and Social Security numbers.

But critics, including the League of Women Voters, say it just creates an “onerous burden” on voters to resolve what is sometimes just a typographical error or a name-variation issue. The women’s voting group filed a lawsuit, which failed to overturn the state law.

“Most damning is the official admission of state officials during the recent lawsuit that typographical errors by election workers are responsible for most of the match failures,” a League news release said.

These typographical errors are bound to multiply as state workers are swamped in entering new-voter information by hand into the statewide database before the Oct. 6 registration deadline.

All this points toward a chaotic Election Day with lots of untidy loose threads that will be tied up by provisional ballots.

Let’s hope not. Provisional ballots could spell trouble

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