ACLU of Florida Says News Report Documenting Error-Ridden Felon List Demonstrates Negligence on Part of State Officials

July 2, 2004 12:00 am

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MIAMI, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said today that a newspaper analysis showing that thousands of voters were wrongfully included on a list of felons potentially ineligible to vote demonstrates that there are undoubtedly many more errors that have yet to be uncovered.

“”There is no excuse for such negligence by state officials with regard to the most fundamental right of an American citizen – the right to vote,”” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.

The report issued in today’s Miami Herald notes that approximately 2,100 eligible voters appear on the felon purge list produced by the state of Florida. Simon said the analysis validates the concerns raised by the ACLU immediately after the Florida Division of Elections directed all 67 county elections supervisors to begin the purge process.

The Herald uncovered one category of error – people who are listed as felons, but who have received clemency. But the ACLU said there are undoubtedly many more errors that deal with identity match, arrests that did not result in any charges, charges that did not result in convictions or charges that resulted in “withholds of adjudication,” or older clemency records that have not been converted to electronic form and transmitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“”In light of this report, any further pronouncements from this administration that we are headed for an error-free election should be treated with a good deal of skepticism,”” said Simon.

On May 5th, Edward C. Kast, Director of the Florida Division of Elections, issued a memo instructing all county elections supervisors to use the information contained in a statewide voter database to begin notifying the people in their counties that they may not be eligible to vote because of a prior felony conviction. However, in an earlier memo to county election officials issued on September 30, Kast questioned the reliability of the data used to identify felons, who are barred by Florida law from voting.

“”This is an administration that removes eligible voters first and asks questions later,”” Simon added. “”That was certainly the aim of the May 5th letter from the State Elections Department to County Supervisors.””

The ACLU has raised the concerns over the validity of the list in recent weeks. On May 14, the ACLU sent letters urging elections supervisors in all 67 Florida counties to independently verify the criminal records of people identified by the state as convicted felons before removing them from voter rolls.

The ACLU’s Simon also addressed county elections supervisors at their 59th annual conference in Key West last month. In addition, ACLU chapter representatives have been meeting with elections supervisors across the state, including in Hillsborough, Broward and Palm Beach.

For more on this issue, visit the ACLU of Florida web site at http://www.aclufl.org/issues/voting_rights/election_reform

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