Vote Watch 2004
Vote/Election fraud, vote suppression, voting irregularities, voter intimidation in Election 2004

 

Acknowledgements


Home Page Interpreting Pre-Election Polls Anti-Kerry Lies and Fraud
Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV)! Overseas Absentee Voting Other Voting Irregularities
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Here, I use the definition of Swing States by the Swing State Project

Please select your state of interest to proceed. (If there is no link, that means there is no content for that state yet).

FLORIDA

12/14/04_2 [Permalink]
Some reports in Florida of electronic voting machines displaying Bush as the voter's choice when Kerry was selected

Via reader radtimes, here is piece by David Corn:

Regular readers know that I've advised the Bush opposition to be cautious in claiming that the November 2 vote count was rigged in Ohio, Florida or elsewhere--especially when there is no concrete evidence, just supposition. But there are plenty of reasons to fret about the overall integrity of the voting system--particularly when some counties rely on electronic voting machines that produce no auditable paper trail and that are manufactured by Diebold, a company that is run by a GOP fundraiser and that refuses to submit its computer codes for independent scrutiny. I've just finished another short piece on all this for The Nation. (I'll post it when it's out.) But today I received an interesting email from a fellow I do not know, a 62-year-old retired systems programmer living in Palm Beach County. I cannot vouch for him, but I thought his note is worth sharing. It is one of the more intriguing emails out of the 100-plus notes I have received on this subject the past few days. I don't know if he wants his name publicized, so I have deleted it. Here's the email:

Hi. After reading your article--A Stolen Election?--I am inclined to share my experience with you.

I witnessed my wife's attempts to vote for Kerry in precinct 1196, St. Edwards Church, Palm Beach FL 33480. She pushed Kerry at least 3 times, each time a Bush vote displayed. [She] anxiously called me over and I suggested that she not push so hard on the screen, and push DIRECTLY on the X for Kerry and it worked. The summary at [the] end stated a Kerry vote. My machine gave no problems. We voted early, to go answer phones for the PB county Democratic HQ.

During my stint on PB Dems phones, I answered 2 calls from poll watchers, relating to VOTER COMPLAINTS: "I Push the Kerry button, and get a Bush vote." After the first one, I called the Kerry lawyer pool, and their response was "seems to be happening everywhere," "poll workers have a procedure to take offending machine off line, and re-calibrate it." [During] the 2nd call, I relayed the information to "demand a re calibration."

After thinking about this problem (with 40 years of computer programming experience), I thought about how to debug a program, REQUIRING RECALIBRATION enough to make it a STANDARD PROCEDURE. Then the thought came to me that it may not be a BUG, but a "DESIGN FEATURE" as we euphemistically call some in the trade. This was a Sequoia machine, not a (Republican-run) Diebold. If your touch-screen routine was designed to properly execute when pushed lightly in the DESIGNATED SPOT, it would be certifiable. If it was pushed elsewhere or TOO HARD, what would the program do? Perhaps skew to a "preferred candidate"? Based on proximity to the DESIGNATED SPOT. Perhaps this was calculated on a pixel basis, and maybe the size of the finger/footprint. What happens when one pushes farther along the longer "Kerry" name versus the shorter "Bush" name? Is the touch-screen map parametrically hard-coded in pixel ranges, or with a (calculated, possibly volatile) bitmap, which could be modified by a bug in a clock routine? Or some other routine, unrelated to voting such as Windows scheduler, or the touch interrupt?

I would feel better about this:

1) if [Palm Beach County] elections commissioner (chairman Theresa LaPore) had not ruled the no "outsider" can experiment with the machines, hardware, software, procedures, because "they are proprietary," AND that "would void the warranty," and that there "could be no paper trail." I am glad she is gone, but not soon enough.

2) if I heard ANY (documented or anecdotal) Bush voter complain that her/his vote was MYSTERIOUSLY changed to a Kerry vote.

3) if the Sequoia machine was debugged to not require recalibration, and the re-calibration problem was ADEQUATELY explained in the new version report.

We will never know what code was in that machine while my wife was voting Nov. 2nd. And whether that code removed itself.

My feeling is that all Bush needed was to get 1 or 2 or more CHANGED votes from EACH of these machines, allowed by an inattentive voter neglecting to verify the final summary page, due to time/inattention problems, or [who] frustratedly let the vote stand without complaining. Actually I later found out that 175,000 machines were used in the vote, and the Bush margin (3.5 million) would only require a swing of 10 votes per machine to be wiped out or 20 per machine to change an expected Bush loss to win.

This might explain some of the exit poll/verified vote discrepancy, or why Kerry ONLY got 60% of the Palm Beach County vote (and 64% of Broward), while San Francisco gave Kerry 85%.

Regards, Bob

"Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- A. Einstein

I am not trying to bolster the case made by others that Bush won because someone rigged the voting machines. And it's not surprising to me that Kerry did better in San Francisco than Palm Beach. But Bob's note raises important issues about the use of touch-screen machines. Why did some record the wrong vote? Why did they have to be recalibrated? More importantly, who is out there to investigate the operations of these machines and credibly verify their operations? The answers to Bob's questions and suspicions should be easily determined. But voting, in a way, has been outsourced to private companies. The message to the vendors ought to be: no open-source code, no contract. Voting ought to occur in private; vote-counting should be a public act.

 

12/14/04 [Permalink]
Election Protection volunteers report possible undercounting of votes in a Florida county

Via reader LV, this report in the Newport News Times:

The south Lincoln County couple flew to Florida on Oct. 29, and came back November 3. "We were assigned," Betts said, "to precinct 162, which people there called 'Little Haiti.' The demographics," he said, showed more than a thousand people registered as voters. The poll worker who opened the doors in that precinct told Betts the precinct had 1,080 registered voters. According to the information from Election Protection, Betts said, it was closer to 1,300.

The breakdown Betts and Scarborough received from Election Protection showed 818 Black (i.e., mostly Haitian) voters; 172 Hispanics (none, he added, Cuban-Americans), 47 white, and an unidentified 117 "other" category voters. It was a predictably Democratic district.

The polls opened at 7 a.m. and, said Betts, "I shook hands with the first lady in line. She smiled broadly at me. At one point, there were three very elderly ladies, walking with walkers," he recalled, and "I saw they were leaving the polling area without the 'I Voted' sticker polling officials give people after they have voted. So I asked them why they were leaving, and one of the ladies said they had been waiting too long, their knees hurt and they couldn't stand and wait any more. So I went to the poll worker who had opened the doors at 7 and explained what was happening, and could they let these elderly women come in ahead of the younger voters to vote?"

That was done and, Betts said, "one of the other poll workers, with a heavy Creole accident, told me, 'You're a good man, doin' that for them old ladies.'"

Aside from that, Betts said, "There were no incidents, no problems."

The poll worker who had opened the doors in the told Betts at about 4 p.m. there had been "over 800 people who'd voted." And, Betts said carefully, "She explained that starting after 5, until about 7, about another quarter of the voters come in, after work, to vote." That would mean a total of 1,000 or more voters in the precinct.

But when the results came out, Betts continued, the official vote was given as 535 total votes cast.

That didn't fit right, Betts felt. "How did they get down to 535 people voting there?" he asked.

"There is," he continued, "not much you can do about it. There was no paper trail. The only way to verify this would be to check the voter rolls and see the number of people who were checked off" as having come to the polling place and voted.

"And that still would not prove anything," he noted. "The county there could say maybe they didn't vote for president."

Betts had to stay non-partisan, but he explained he was still able to ask people questions even though he could not advocate for any candidate.

"I talked to about half the people voting," he recalls. "I can recall talking to about six or eight people who said they voted for Bush," and many times that number who said they voted for Kerry. "In Haiti," he said, "the country was in chaos around the time of the ouster of Aristide as president there. A lot of the people I talked to were really angry about the ouster of Aristide, and more about the Bush administration's delay, of two or three weeks, before sending in security personnel to restore order."

But it is not the fact that 10 percent (55 voters) were officially recorded as voting for Bush. "Maybe they did," he says. It was the fact that half of the heavily Democratic precinct officially never showed up to vote, even though the leading poll worker told him far more than half had voted even before the after-work rush had begun.

"I don't know any way that precinct could have turned out only 535 votes all together," Betts said. "Not when the poll watcher had said there were 800 voting even before 5 came."

11/20/04 [Permalink]
Black Box Voting (BBV) finds poll tape copies in the garbage, poll tape discrepancies, and hostile officials in Volusia County, Florida; officials say BBV is comparing apples to oranges in reporting a discrepancy and that legally, they don't have to keep the copies (that were found in the trash)

Black Box Voting filed this report:

TUESDAY NOV 16 2004: Volusia County on lockdown

County election records just got put on lockdown

Dueling lawyers, election officials gnashing teeth, Votergate.tv film crew catching it all.

Here's what happened so far:

Friday Black Box Voting investigators Andy Stephenson and Kathleen Wynne popped in to ask for some records. They were rebuffed by an elections official named Denise. Bev Harris called on the cell phone from investigations in downstate Florida, and told Volusia County Elections Supervisor Deanie Lowe that Black Box Voting would be in to pick up the Nov. 2 Freedom of Information request, or would file for a hand recount. "No, Bev, please don't do that!" Lowe exclaimed. But this is the way it has to be, folks. Black Box Voting didn't back down.

Monday Bev, Andy and Kathleen came in with a film crew and asked for the FOIA request. Deanie Lowe gave it over with a smile, but Harris noticed that one item, the polling place tapes, were not copies of the real ones, but instead were new printouts, done on Nov. 15, and not signed by anyone.

Harris asked to see the real ones, and they said for "privacy" reasons they can't make copies of the signed ones. She insisted on at least viewing them (although refusing to give copies of the signatures is not legally defensible, according to Berkeley elections attorney, Lowell Finley). They said the real ones were in the County Elections warehouse. It was quittin' time and an arrangment was made to come back this morning to review them.

Lana Hires, a Volusia County employee who gained some notoriety in an election 2000 Diebold memo, where she asked for an explanation of minus 16,022 votes for Gore, so she wouldn't have to stand there "looking dumb" when the auditor came in, was particularly unhappy about seeing the Black Box Voting investigators in the office. She vigorously shook her head when Deanie Lowe suggested going to the warehouse.

Kathleen Wynne and Bev Harris showed up at the warehouse at 8:15 Tuesday morning, Nov. 16. There was Lana Hires looking especially gruff, yet surprised. She ordered them out. Well, they couldn't see why because there she was, with a couple other people, handling the original poll tapes. You know, the ones with the signatures on them. Harris and Wynne stepped out and Volusia County officials promptly shut the door.

There was a trash bag on the porch outside the door. Harris looked into it and what do you know, but there were poll tapes in there. They came out and glared at Harris and Wynne, who drove away a small bit, and then videotaped the license plates of the two vehicles marked 'City Council' member. Others came out to glare and soon all doors were slammed.

So, Harris and Wynne went and parked behind a bus to see what they would do next. They pulled out some large pylons, which blocked the door. Harris decided to go look at the garbage some more while Wynne videotaped. A man who identified himself as "Pete" came out and Harris immediately wrote a public records request for the contents of the garbage bag, which also contained ballots -- real ones, but not filled out.

A brief tug of war occurred, tearing the garbage bag open. Harris and Wynne then looked through it, as Pete looked on. He was quite friendly.

Black Box Voting collected various poll tapes and other information and asked if they could copy it, for the public records request. "You won't be going anywhere," said Pete. "The deputy is on his way."

Yes, not one but two police cars came up and then two county elections officials, and everyone stood around discussing the merits of the "black bag" public records request.

The police finally let Harris and Wynne go, about the time the Votergate.tv film crew arrived, and everyone trooped off to the elections office. There, the plot thickened.

Black Box Voting began to compare the special printouts given in the FOIA request with the signed polling tapes from election night. Lo and behold, some were missing. By this time, Black Box Voting investigator Andy Stephenson had joined the group at Volusia County. Some polling place tapes didn't match. In fact, in one location, precinct 215, an African-American precinct, the votes were off by hundreds, in favor of George W. Bush and other Republicans.

Hmm. Which was right? The polling tape Volusia gave to Black Box Voting, specially printed on Nov. 15, without signatures, or the ones with signatures, printed on Nov. 2, with up to 8 signatures per tape?

Well, then it became even more interesting. A Volusia employee boxed up some items from an office containing Lana Hires' desk, which appeared to contain -- you guessed it -- polling place tapes. The employee took them to the back of the building and disappeared.

Then, Ellen B., a voting integrity advocate from Broward County, Florida, and Susan, from Volusia, decided now would be a good time to go through the trash at the elections office. Lo and behold, they found all kinds of memos and some polling place tapes, fresh from Volusia elections office.

So, Black Box Voting compared these with the Nov. 2 signed ones and the "special' ones from Nov. 15 given, unsigned, finding several of the MISSING poll tapes. There they were: In the garbage.

So, Wynne went to the car and got the polling place tapes she had pulled from the warehouse garbage. My my my. There were not only discrepancies, but a polling place tape that was signed by six officials.

This was a bit disturbing, since the employees there had said that bag was destined for the shredder.

By now, a county lawyer had appeared on the scene, suddenly threatening to charge Black Box Voting extra for the time spent looking at the real stuff Volusia had withheld earlier. Other lawyers appeared, phoned, people had meetings, Lana glowered at everyone, and someone shut the door in the office holding the GEMS server.

Black Box Voting investigator Andy Stephenson then went to get the Diebold "GEMS" central server locked down. He also got the memory cards locked down and secured, much to the dismay of Lana. They were scattered around unsecured in any way before that.

Everyone agreed to convene tomorrow morning, to further audit, discuss the hand count that Black Box Voting will require of Volusia County, and of course, it is time to talk about contesting the election in Volusia.

Via reader radtimes, a report in the Orlando Sentinel on this:

Harris, whose meeting with Volusia officials Tuesday was recorded by videographers working on a documentary called Votergate, wouldn't reveal the names of all the counties her group is focusing on first, though she confirmed she is scheduled to get information from St. Lucie County today.

 

The filmmakers also taped Harris' supporters finding documents from Election Supervisor Deanie Lowe's office in the trash. Lowe said the documents were duplicates of precinct-based reports poll workers printed after the polls closed on Election Day.

 

Lowe said she's not required by law to keep the duplicates and that she has the originals.

 

In Volusia, Harris is citing apparent discrepancies such as precinct-based Election Day results that differ from last week's final tally as reasons to scrutinize the county's ballots and voting equipment.

 

But Lowe said it's not logical to expect those sets of numbers to add up because the final tally includes such categories of ballots as absentee and provisional.

 

"You've got to compare apples to apples if you expect to come up with a bushel of apples," Lowe said. County Judge Steven deLaroche, a member of Volusia's elections canvassing board, said it seems Black Box Voting is on a fishing expedition in the wrong  county. After all, Volusia had to count its ballots twice -- once on Election Day, and then a close judicial race prompted an automatic recount. They checked out.

 

In Tuesday's meeting, Lowe offered to let Black Box Voting inspect ballots from three precincts at no charge if it wanted to compare the paper ballots with the precinct-based reports from optical-scanning machines. 

 

Harris asked to inspect ballots from 50 precincts because those are the ones she suspects have problems, based on her initial review of the paperwork she got this week from Volusia County.

 

But Lowe said Harris couldn't inspect that many for free. The estimated cost, mainly to pay for two county employees and security, won't be known until Harris tells Lowe which specific precincts she wants to inspect.

 

11/16/04 [Permalink]
268 uncounted absentee ballots "discovered" in the office of Pinellas county that Bush "won" by 226 votes - after county formally certified results. This is not new - similar incident in 2000 resulted in County changing final tally in favor of Al Gore. These are not the only incidents that County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark has become infamous for. 

Via edverb at Dailykos, here is a report in the St. Petersburg Times (bold text is my emphasis):

The unmarked brown box sat unnoticed in the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections office until Monday, two weeks after the election, when an employee cleaning a desk stumbled upon it.

Inside were 268 uncounted absentee ballots.

"I think this is a very serious situation," Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said Monday, vowing to fire or discipline any employee found to be negligent.

"I assume all responsibility for everything that happened in that department, but I have to rely on other people," Clark said. "It's not a one-woman show."

The unmarked box wasn't the only problem.

Five days ago, Clark sent the state the county's final results for the Nov. 2 election. But her office had failed to perform a standard check to ensure that all ballots had been accounted for.

Clark assumed her staff had performed the check, but they had not.

Now she will ask the state for permission to change Pinellas' official results. The canvassing board will count the missing ballots Thursday.

Although it is numerically possible, officials say the missing ballots probably won't change any results. Only a few races were decided by less than 268 votes - including the presidential contest.

George W. Bush won the presidential race in Pinellas by just 226 votes. While Bush's margin in Pinellas could change, his statewide victory won't.

A city commission seat in South Pasadena and a referendum in Indian Rocks Beach were also decided by fewer than 268 votes.

"If you found a couple hundred thousand votes in Ohio, that might be exciting," said Paul Bedinghaus, chairman of the Pinellas Republican Party. "I expect that human error will continue to occur as long as human beings are involved."

This is the third time since Clark became election supervisor in 2000 that her office has had problems handling ballots.

In the presidential race in 2000, the office neglected to count 1,400 ballots - and counted more than 900 ballots twice. In 2001, her office misplaced six absentee ballots in a Tarpon Springs city election.

The uncounted absentee ballots this time came from the St. Petersburg election office.

Election workers there put absentee ballots in a box to be delivered to the election service center in Largo, where they would be counted on Election Day.

That afternoon, a staff courier delivered the box from St. Petersburg to Largo.

Clark said her office has a system to track the boxes, but she could not describe it in detail during a phone interview from her home Monday night.

The box arrived at the election office, where it sat in plain sight in the absentee ballot department for 14 days.

Office spokeswoman Lori Hudson said other boxes and papers were piled on top of the box. The ballot box was not marked in any unique way. Clark could not say Monday why the box was not specially marked.

Voters, accustomed to putting punch card ballots in locked metal boxes, had been uneasy when they saw election officials throw absentee ballots in a brown box in the St. Petersburg office, said Democratic lawyer Peter Wallace.

Even before Election Day, missing ballots had caused embarrassment for another election supervisor. Hillsborough Supervisor of Election Buddy Johnson had been criticized in October after his staff lost 245 ballots in the Aug. 31 primary.

Normally, Clark would have detected the missing ballots when her staff checked to ensure that every ballot was accounted for.

Usually, every ballot, whether filed absentee or at a polling place, is registered into a computer system. After the election, workers compare the number recorded in the computer to the number of ballots.

For some reason, the staff did not perform the procedure.

Clark learned about the missing ballots on Monday afternoon. Clark did not return to the office because she said she needed to be with her husband, who is having surgery.

Her staff, though, worked past 5 p.m. She promised a thorough investigation.

"If we determine that this is the result of negligence, then those responsible will be held accountable," Clark said. "I can assure you of that."

As edverb at Dailykos also notes:

A quick Google search of Mrs. Clark comes up with several oddities, and a potential conflict-of-interest -- the county election supervisor's husband was employed by voting machine manufacturer ES&S, who was awarded over $400,000 in sales of their voting equipment to the county.  

While Deborah Clark worked as a top official in the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office, her husband's employer was awarded more than $400,000 in business with the office.

Now, Clark heads the office, and that company, Elections Systems & Software, is a leading contender to land a lucrative contract -- worth as much as $15-million -- to sell new voting machines to Pinellas County, records show.

Clark said Wednesday evening she sees no conflict of interest, and pointed out that the contracts were handled by her predecessor.

The above article goes on to mention that Clark's deputy is also connected by family ties to the voting machine manufacturer.

To complicate matters, Clark's deputy administrator, Karen Butler, is the sister of Sandra Mortham, Florida's former secretary of state and now a lobbyist for ES&S before the state Legislature. Butler is one of more than a dozen senior staff members helping to evaluate competing systems, but she told the Times that family ties won't matter.

In 2002, many voters were given the wrong ballots, possibly swinging the election for the fire commissioner.  

Pinellas County elections officials said human error was to blame for more than 600 voters getting the wrong ballot in Tuesday's election.

Election workers mislabeled machines that activate the cards Pinellas voters insert into touch-screen voting machines to display their ballots.

The mislabeled activators in five precincts caused 633 voters in unincorporated Lealman, between St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, to get ballots with referendum questions from those cities rather than the Lealman fire commission race, officials said.

The problem could have affected the outcome of a fire commission race decided by 582 votes, officials said.

"Obviously I feel terrible about it,'' said Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark. "We've already changed our internal procedures to check activators more than once.''

The problem was fixed early in four of the precincts. But it wasn't caught until late in the day at the fifth, where 444 voters got the wrong ballot and had no chance to vote for fire commissioner.

Despite the confusion, officials certified the election.

In the 2000 presidential election, the county was initially called for Bush, until discoveries led to a significant swing -- subtracting 61 erroneous votes for Bush and adding 417 missing votes for Gore -- putting the county in the Gore column.  

Pinellas County, which includes St. Petersburg, will have to redo its count because a poll worker inadvertently failed to run an unknown number of ballots through its computer Wednesday, county Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark said. The county retracted its original announcement that Gore had gained 404 votes and Bush dropped by 61 votes in its recount.

 

11/12/04 [Permalink]
In Florida, electronic voting machines subtracted about 70,000 votes from vote totals in Broward County and by about 8400 in Orange county

Via BradBlog, we have this report in the Miami Herald:

Broward County corrected a computer glitch Thursday that had miscounted thousands of absentee votes, instantly turning a slot-machine measure from loser to winner and reinforcing concerns about the accuracy of electronic election returns.

The bug, discovered two years ago but never fixed, began subtracting votes after the absentee tally hit 32,500 -- a ceiling put in place by the software makers.

''Clearly it's a concern about the integrity of the voting system,'' said Broward County Mayor Ilene Lieberman, a canvassing board member who was overseeing the count. ``This glitch needs to be fixed immediately.''

The problem, which resulted in the shocking discovery of about 70,000 votes for Amendment 4, a measure allowing a referendum on Las Vegas-style slots at parimutuels in Miami-Dade and Broward, came to light just after midnight Wednesday when Broward's canvassing board shut down.

Lieberman, Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes and several lawyers on both sides of the gambling amendment noticed votes suddenly disappearing on Amendment 4.

The problem was quickly traced to software in what is known as the central tabulation machine, a computer that collects data from optical scanners that read the individual mail-in ballots.

Besides reversing the Election Night outcome on a controversial gambling question, the error spurred finger-pointing and provided more ammo for critics of high-tech voting.

Another report from Orange County via Votersunite:

Sometimes the problem is that votes were miscounted. That's what happened, officials say, with precinct-by-precinct results posted on the Orange County elections office Web site showing that Democrat John Kerry beat Republican President Bush by 9,227 votes in Orange.

That was off by 8,400 votes. Officials working for Bill Cowles, the Orange elections supervisor, said the correct totals, available elsewhere on the site, showed that Kerry bested Bush in the county by only 827 votes.

The cause of the error, Orange officials said Thursday, was a software program that could not tabulate more than 32,767 votes in a single precinct. On election night, officials anticipated the problem and adjusted for it, deputy election official Lonn Fluke said Thursday.

But the next day, workers failed to account for the glitch while posting precinct results online. When absentee-ballot totals exceeded the limit in one precinct, the software caused additional votes to be subtracted from Bush's total.

A similar discrepancy affected vote totals posted online for the U.S. Senate race between Republican Mel Martinez and Democrat Betty Castor. But neither online counting problem made it into the real totals sent to Tallahassee, election officials insist.

"The election results we certified to the state are correct," Fluke said. The presidential and U.S. Senate absentee results posted online were "garbage."

Neither miscount was enough to influence Bush's or Martinez's Florida victories. But the conflicting data was not removed from the Web site until Thursday.

Similar counting problems were reported in Broward County and in Greensboro, N.C.

 

 

11/2/04_3 [Permalink]
Democratic voters in Florida receive fraudulent calls claiming they need to go to a different polling location

Via Campaign Desk, here is a report in The Daily Commercial:

Voters who received calls over the past few days saying their precincts have been moved should pay no heed, election officials said, and should go to their previously assigned precincts. The calls are part of what appears to be an organized misinformation campaign, officials said.

“It’s criminal,” said Lake County Supervisor of Elections Emogene Stegall. “It’s the most terrible thing. I have never seen anything like this happen here.”

Stegall’s office received calls Monday afternoon from four concerned residents, all receiving the same automated message on their answering machines. The message told the voters their precincts had changed and they should go to a different location, one which Stegall said does not exist.

All of the calls, said Stegall, were made to registered Democrats. The complaints came from all over the county.

While the four complaints came in rapid succession, calls from confused voters were coming in all morning. It wasn’t until a certain number of voters asked questions about a precinct being moved that election officials realized this was an attempt to suppress turnout, Stegall said.

Sumter County Supervisor of Elections Karen Krauss got one similar complaint Monday. A Lindon voter, also a registered Democrat, had someone call her in person and tell her that the Lindon location was closed. The voter called Krauss to check, and Krauss informed her the Lindon location would remain open and that the voter should go there.

“The various groups are out there starting to do things, and it’s really sad,” Krauss said. “We have no way to know how much of this is organized efforts and how much is done by lone rangers.”

The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is now investigating the calls. Stegall said she does not know if this is a local effort or a larger effort organized by a statewide group or an out-of-state organization. Florida is considered a pivotal state in today’s presidential election, and polls all show the race within the margin of error.

Stegall said a change in polling locations would not be made so close to an election. In the event that polling sites are moved, all affected voters are sent a notification by mail. Voters should go to their assigned precinct as shown on their voter identification cards, Stegall said.

Any Lake County voter who does not know where their polling location is may call 343-9734, Stegall said. Sumter voters may call Krauss’s office at 793-0230.

TAPPED has a note as well:

SECOND SOURCE EDITION. Reporting from West Palm Beach for CNN, Gary Tuchman just confirmed what Nick mentioned earlier about a barrage of automated phone calls in Florida last night telling people their polling places had changed, causing large-scale confusion and the phone lines at election supervisors' offices getting jammed with questions throughout this morning.

 

11/2/04_2 [Permalink]
Older News: Non-partisan voter registration drive illegally blocked in Florida and decision reversed after court order

Via PFAW/NAACP, here is a report:

Officials in Miami Beach, Florida, in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security, blocked a voter registration drive for new citizens, citing crowd control and public safety issues.[i]  In August, John C. Shewairy, Chief of Staff to the District Director of Homeland Security, informed Mi Familia Vota (MFV), a nonpartisan voter registration project run by the Center for Immigrant Democracy in conjunction with People For the American Way Foundation, that they would no longer be allowed to conduct voter registration drives on the sidewalks just outside the Miami Beach Convention Center at the conclusion of naturalization ceremonies. Mi Familia Vota attempted to solve the issue without resorting to litigation, but when Mr. Shewairy refused to respond to their requests and Miami Beach officials denied MFV access to the public sidewalks in front of the convention center in September, the organization went to federal court seeking an injunction. The judge issued an injunction restraining DHS and Miami Beach officials from prohibiting MFV's registration drive.[ii]

[i] Nicole White, “Voter Group May Sign Up New Citizens,” The Miami Herald, 9/17/04

[ii] People for the American Way press release, "Nonpartisan Voter Reg Group Sues Homeland Security, City of Miami Beach over Denial of Access to New Citizens," 9/15/04 & Adalberto Jordan, "Center for Immigrant Democracy vs. John C. Shewairy," CASE NO. 04-22326-CIV -JORDAN, 9/16/04

 

11/2/04_1 [Permalink]
GOP demands that Democratic volunteers in Florida speak to non-English (Creole) speaking Haitian-American early voters in English only, claiming that the volunteers are "threatening" the voters. Democratic volunteers deny this and point out that they were responding to requests of help from the voters (confirmed independently).

Via PFAW/NAACP report a story in the Miami Herald:

Republicans and Democrats are accusing each other of intimidating and harassing Haitian-American voters at early voting polling sites in Miami-Dade County.

In Little Haiti, Democratic activists say Republican observers are demanding that community volunteers speak English when assisting Creole-speaking voters.

Republicans counter that Kerry-Edwards supporters are pressuring voters inside the polling place at the Lemon City Library.

In North Miami, a prominent Haitian-American activist said GOP observers tried to kick her out of the North Miami Library, where fellow Haitian-American voters were soliciting her help with the ballot questions.

Republicans, including Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie, said the Democrats were the ones who overstepped the bounds.

''We'd be happy if it was just soliciting,'' said Manuel Iglesias, chairman of the Bush-Cheney legal team in Miami-Dade.

'Voters are being threatened, with activists saying, `We're going to tell the Aristide people that you're voting for Bush.' ''

Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was forced from office on Feb. 29, has claimed that he was ''kidnapped'' by the Bush administration. The administration vehemently denies the accusation.

Iglesias said the political activists are allowed inside the polling site because Florida law that bars them from within 50 feet of a poll's entrance on Election Day doesn't apply during early voting.

Seth Kaplan, a spokesman for the Miami-Dade County elections department, said all Miami-Dade poll workers have been told to obey the 50-foot rule. But he acknowledges that problems have popped up with poll watchers who enter the voting areas.

Kerry supporters at the government center on Thursday denied intimidating anyone.

''We got here this morning for a rally in support of the minimum wage amendment, then the Bush-Cheney people showed up. Tell me who's intimidating whom?'' asked Delores Turner, president of the Miami board of ACORN.

Haitian-American activists on both sides of the political aisle say the problem is simple: There are not enough Creole-speaking elections volunteers working the polling sites to assist voters.

Even though ballot questions are in Creole, some cannot understand the questions because they are illiterate in the language. As a result, voters are seeking help from volunteers, some of whom are Democratic activists.

Carline Paul, a former Miami-Dade teacher, said GOP observers tried to boot her out of the North Miami Library after accusing her of soliciting voters. She denied it.

 

10/28/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 11/16/04
Tens of thousands of absentee ballots go missing in Florida - adding to jeopardy that many votes will not get counted; internal postal service e-mail confirms that at least some absentee ballots were mishandled despite earlier denials by Florida officials. Additionally, outrageous absentee ballot delays in Broward County - ballots mailed OUT only on 10/30. Hundreds of voters disenfranchised.

Simply Appalling has this update (via Buzzflash):

Broward County, Florida, has just announced that it is resending some 76,000 absentee ballots. Some 56,000 ballots, asserted by the Elections Office to have been mailed on October 7-8, have not been received.

What happened to 56,000 ballots demands a thorough investigation. It's difficult to imagine such a large mailing "lost" without some criminal activity. But the investigation will have to wait until after the election.

In the meantime, those missing ballots are a real threat to the outcome of the Florida election. For some—home-bound people and travelers—the absentee ballot is a must. But of the total requests, this group does not represent the greater portion.

The majority have requested the ballots as a convenience or as insurance that their vote is counted. So can they just go to the polls and vote?

Not exactly.

[I]f a voter has received an absentee ballot and has not sent it back, they must hand it over to election officials before they can vote on Election Day.

Since you can't return what you haven't received, I made a call to a Florida Supervisor of Election's office to find out what the procedure is for the voter who cannot return his/her absentee ballot. It is this: a poll worker at the precinct must call in to the Elections office to verify that no ballot has been received before the voter may proceed to vote. Even a few thousand such calls would overwhelm any system in the state!

If the Broward Elections office mailed the ballots on or before October 8, as it says, and if the U.S. Postal Service hasn't been able to deliver them by now, I can't be optimistic that this second batch will be delivered on time.

If you are a Florida resident and have requested a ballot that you haven't received, I would urge you to vote before November 2.

Turneresq at Dailykos notes this AP story which says that only some ballots will be re-shipped:

With voters jamming phone lines saying they haven’t received absentee ballots in the mail, elections officials planned to mail out thousands of replacement ballots.

As election workers and the U.S. Postal Service traded the blame Wednesday, Broward County elections supervisor Brenda Snipes moved to solve the problem with less than a week left before the presidential election by sending duplicates to people who had not returned the original ballot.

Attention focused on a batch of 58,000 Broward ballots given to the Postal Service on Oct. 7-8. Though some voters have completed and returned ballots mailed those days, hundreds of others have called to complain their forms have not arrived. It was unclear how many absentee ballots were affected.

“This isn’t a blame game,” Snipes told The Miami Herald. “What we’re concentrating on is getting the ballots to the voter.” She was named to the job by Gov. Jeb Bush after the 2000 elections supervisor quit during the bitter presidential vote recount and her replacement was suspended for bungling.

Snipes estimated she would resend no more than 20,000 ballots, but about 76,000 ballots sent by her office have not been returned. Overnight mail was to be used to send new ballots to voters living outside the county, such as college students.

Via reader radtimes, an update in the Sun-Sentinel:

The same day postal officials publicly denied responsibility for 58,000 missing absentee ballots, an internal e-mail sent by the South Florida District Manager to his employees expressed concern that his staff was not handling ballots within the region properly.

In the memorandum sent on Oct. 26, Butch Parker also told his employees that staff seemed unaware of the procedures that should be taken when handling ballots.

"As of today, we have supervisors and employees that state they have never been made aware of the procedures to be used," Parker wrote to his employees. "We continue to find absentee ballots mixed in with other classes of mail."

The e-mail stated that absentee ballots with improper postage sat idle in postal facilities, instead of being returned to their sender.

Although the ballots soon began trickling into elections officials, countless other voters continued to complain that they had not received the ballots they requested, or that they arrived weeks after requesting them.

Postal officials downplayed the e-mail on Thursday, saying Parker merely meant to stress proper procedure, said Earl C. Artis, Jr., a spokesman for the Postal Service.

"It was an effort to make certain that every manager was checking and double checking mail at their facility to ensure that we had processed and delivered every absentee ballot we had received," he said Thursday.

The same day the e-mail was sent out, Postal Service officials said they were not to blame for the backlog.

Lojo at Dailykos has this additional news (bold text is my emphasis):

Depressing story (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10059493.htm) about problems in Broward in today's Miami Herald.  Broward is a Dem county that just keeps on screwing up (elections). Here's the money quote.  

"The Broward election office took about 2,500 absentee ballots -- some heading to addresses in Ohio, Arkansas and Nevada -- to the post office Saturday afternoon for regular delivery.

''We work miracles around here, but this is really asking a lot,'' said Gerry McKiernan, a U.S. Postal Service spokesman, adding that he did not know exactly how many were going out of town."

Reader radtimes sends in this article:

Odile Dumas' daughter Monique, a student at Howard University in Washington D.C., was so anxious to vote that back in September she requested an absentee ballot from Palm Beach County in Florida. On Friday, just five days before the election, when her ballot still hadn't arrived, she called her mother Odile in a panic. Odile immediately went to the Supervisor of Elections office to get her daughter's ballot and Federal Express it to her. But the lines were too long and she had to get to work. So she returned on Saturday and took her place on line. "My black ancestors were jailed and killed for trying to vote," said Odile. "The least I can do is stand in line so that my daughter can vote." Odile's patience turned to exasperation, however, when the 8-hour wait meant that she had missed the deadline for Federal Express and the wait was all for naught. "My daughter has just lost her right to vote," said Odile. "Is this the democracy we fought for?"

Odile was not alone in her frustration. Also on line was Shelly Marcus, trying to get an absentee ballot that her son Joshua, a student at Emory College, had requested on September 11. "My son is 18 and this was his first opportunity to vote for president. I'm ashamed that once again, Palm Beach can't get it right." Gregory Berman, who waited on line for 8 hours and 40 minutes to get an absentee ballot for his 90-year-old father in a nursing home, was furious. "No one in America should have to wait 8 hours to vote, and certainly not to get an absentee ballot that the county was supposed to send out long ago. What you are witnessing here in Palm Beach County is democracy in crisis-again."

Welcome to Palm Beach County, home in 2000 of the infamous butterfly ballots, "Jews for Buchanan", and hanging chads. The infamous Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore was voted out of office in this past August - but unfortunately her term doesn't end until January. That gives her an opportunity to muck up one more election as her parting salvo. And before election day has even arrived, it looks like she's succeeding.

In both Palm Beach County and neighboring Broward County, run by a Democratic Supervisor, there have been a record number of requests for absentee ballots-mostly from the elderly, disabled, voters living outside the county, and people who don't trust the new paperless voting machines. Both counties have been flooded by complaints from people who never received their ballots. In Broward, when the media reported that 58,000 absentee ballots seemed to have "disappeared," Supervisor Brenda Snipes opened up an emergency center to field calls, brought in volunteers to call all 21,000 out-of-town voters, and overnighted thousands of ballots with prepaid overnight return envelopes. Here in Palm Beach County, Theresa LePore's constituents had no comparable support.

UPDATE 11/16/04

Via Votersunite, here is a report in the Palm Beach Post:

Despite a change to Florida law made after the 2000 election that allows anyone to vote absentee, many of the laws that govern mail-in ballots didn't anticipate how widely they would be used and the challenges large counties would face in case of a crush of absentee requests. Secretary of State Glenda Hood, the state's top elections official, did not respond to several requests for an interview for this story.

State Sen. Ron Klein, D-Delray Beach, has plans to change the system, in anticipation of even heavier future use. He calls the problems that occurred a disaster.

Outgoing Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Theresa LePore calls the massive demand an anomaly and cautions legislators against crafting shoot-from-the-hip remedies. She believes lawmakers could create new problems by tinkering with the laws that were written to solve the problems of the 2000 election, she said.

Klein's complaints begin with voters unable to confirm the status of their request for an absentee ballot. Many of them requested a ballot online but said they couldn't confirm whether their request was processed. When their ballot didn't arrive, they called their elections office, which had no record of their request. In some cases, by the time they realized a ballot wasn't on its way, it was too late.

"There should be a system of verification and receipt no different from when you buy a movie ticket at Muvico," Klein said.

Hundreds of voters — including Klein's son, a student at the University of Michigan — couldn't vote because their early orders for ballots disappeared. Though elections supervisors blamed postal workers for delays getting ballots to voters on time, Klein doesn't.

"Direct mail is done in the billions of parcels each year," the state Senate minority leader said.

 

10/26/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 10/31/04
Florida GOP and the Bush-Cheney campaign continue attempts to suppress Democratic votes in Florida using evolving methods

A GOP "caging List" of voters in a minority rich district was discovered and suspected to be a vote challenge list. Its use for vote challenges exposed as possibly illegal, the GOP claimed they will challenge lots of voters but not specifically the ones on the list.  Their vote challenge plan in Florida (using a 109-year old pre-civil-rights-era state law) mirrors GOP plans in Ohio and is expected to cause massive voting delays or shutdowns on voting day (and attendant discouragement/suppression of voters). Governor Jeb Bush encouraged the vote challenges and downplayed the significance of the GOP plan. The GOP vote challengers/poll watchers are disproportionately in minority rich districts - says something doesn't it?
Additionally, the GOP challenged the votes already cast by numerous people claiming that they are felons (using the repeatedly discredited Florida "felon list") - and not unexpectedly, shortly after they propagated this new list it was shown to have names of people who had already had their voting rights restored. 
The latest news is that the Florida Elections Director issued a detailed ruling stating that challenges cannot be allowed to delay the polls, that those challenged should be given the option of casting a provisional ballot and that a voter's being in the discredited felon list is not sufficient reason to allow a challenge to his or her vote.

Via Dailykos, we have this report by Greg Palast in the BBC:

A secret document obtained from inside Bush campaign headquarters in Florida suggests a plan - possibly in violation of US law - to disrupt voting in the state's African-American voting districts, a BBC Newsnight investigation reveals.

Two e-mails, prepared for the executive director of the Bush campaign in Florida and the campaign's national research director in Washington DC, contain a 15-page so-called "caging list".

It lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville, Florida.

An elections supervisor in Tallahassee, when shown the list, told Newsnight: "The only possible reason why they would keep such a thing is to challenge voters on election day."

Ion Sancho, a Democrat, noted that Florida law allows political party operatives inside polling stations to stop voters from obtaining a ballot.

Mass challenges

They may then only vote "provisionally" after signing an affidavit attesting to their legal voting status.

Mass challenges have never occurred in Florida. Indeed, says Mr Sancho, not one challenge has been made to a voter "in the 16 years I've been supervisor of elections."

"Quite frankly, this process can be used to slow down the voting process and cause chaos on election day; and discourage voters from voting."

Sancho calls it "intimidation." And it may be illegal.

In Washington, well-known civil rights attorney, Ralph Neas, noted that US federal law prohibits targeting challenges to voters, even if there is a basis for the challenge, if race is a factor in targeting the voters.

The list of Jacksonville voters covers an area with a majority of black residents.

When asked by Newsnight for an explanation of the list, Republican spokespersons claim the list merely records returned mail from either fundraising solicitations or returned letters sent to newly registered voters to verify their addresses for purposes of mailing campaign literature.

Republican state campaign spokeswoman Mindy Tucker Fletcher stated the list was not put together "in order to create" a challenge list, but refused to say it would not be used in that manner.

Rather, she did acknowledge that the party's poll workers will be instructed to challenge voters, "Where it's stated in the law."

There was no explanation as to why such clerical matters would be sent to top officials of the Bush campaign in Florida and Washington.

Private detective

In Jacksonville, to determine if Republicans were using the lists or other means of intimidating voters, we filmed a private detective filming every "early voter" - the majority of whom are black - from behind a vehicle with blacked-out windows.

The private detective claimed not to know who was paying for his all-day services.

On the scene, Democratic Congresswoman Corinne Brown said the surveillance operation was part of a campaign of intimidation tactics used by the Republican Party to intimate and scare off African American voters, almost all of whom are registered Democrats.

As Kos notes:

I hadn't realized that the caging memos Palast got his hands on came from the Dead Letter Office over at the parody site GeorgeWBush.org [eRiposte note: The emails/lists are here and here]. It seemed like most of those emails were kind of boring, but Palast found the diamond in the rough. You can go check out the names yourself. 49 of those people live at the Naval Air Station in Jacksonville. So apparently, the GOP is targetting some of our servicemembers as well.

UPDATE 10/28/04:

Blogwood notes that the GOP seems to have recognized the illegality of the "caging list" and is claiming that they won't selectively use that for challenges.

We’ve recently heard of GOP plans to pay “volunteers” $100 each to intimidate voters in Ohio, and now we have confirmation that similar tactics will be employed in Florida.
...
They plan to put “Poll Watchers” in certain precincts (I have no doubt that, coincidentally, most precincts staffed with GOP watchers will be in poor and minority neighborhoods.) to challenge certain voters. Now, the way the system works in Florida, just one or two challenges, even if they are without merit, can shut down the entire precinct, as each poorly trained poll worker must weigh in with an opinion as the whether or not the challenged voter should be allowed to cast a ballot.

Working people will not have time to wait in line forever. They will get discouraged, or just have to get back to work, and they will leave the line. Every lost vote is a small victory for the GOP.

Election Protection Volunteer provides on way that you may be able to help.

TBO.com.

The Republican Party said Tuesday that it may equip its Florida poll watchers with lists of voters whose registrations appear fraudulent, then use a little- known section of state law to try blocking them from voting as they arrive at the polls.

Democrats quickly denounced the unprecedented tactic but did not rule out the possibility that they, too, may file eligibility challenges next week.

With both sides amassing armies of lawyers, the prospect of the fight working its way into neighborhood polling stations is frightening county elections supervisors because the arcane procedure is so unwieldy it could shut down entire stations each time it is exercised.
......

(Florida Republican Party adviser Mindy) Tucker Fletcher would not identify which voters the Republicans believe have fraudulently registered to vote, but in comments this week she specifically complained of felons and voters with false addresses on the voting rolls.

The Republicans have compiled a list of voters that likely provided faulty addresses.

Tucker Fletcher said the party conducted widespread mailings to newly registered voters of all parties and created a database of the name and address on mailings that were returned by the post office. She would not say whether that list would be used in any potential challenges at the polls of voting rights.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday that it had obtained a portion of that database, which lists 1,886 names and addresses of voters in predominantly black and traditionally Democrat areas of Jacksonville.

Tucker Fletcher said the partial list obtained by the BBC ``is not going to be used in any way to challenge voters.''

Uh, would that denial have anything to do with the fact that the Jacksonville list may well be illegal, since it looks to have been compiled using race as a factor?

(back to the TBO.com article)

Under the state's challenging provision, observers must file an affidavit detailing their cause for suspicion. The voter then is notified and asked to fill out an affidavit of his own.

Browning said, ``At this point, that voter is going to be incredibly, incredibly ticked off.''

Voting in the entire polling place is then suspended as all poll workers present are required to convene to take a vote on whether the voter should be allowed to cast a ballot. Majority rules.

If a majority of poll workers - who have received no more than 20 minutes of training on the procedure - decide the voter should not vote, a provisional ballot is provided to the voter that will be sealed in a secrecy envelope and considered by the county's canvassing board in the days after the election.

Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho said he had never encountered a challenge in 16 years. Browning said he had encountered a challenge only once in his 24- year career.

Matt Miller, a spokesman for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, said, ``All the Republicans are able to talk about are, No. 1, scare voters from the polls and, No. 2, raise questions about the election.''

AAbshier at Dailykos has more (bold text is my emphasis):

From today's Tampa Tribune:    

The Republican Party said Tuesday that it may equip its Florida poll watchers with lists of voters  whose registrations appear fraudulent, then use a little-known section of state law to try blocking them from voting as they arrive at the polls.

With both sides amassing armies of lawyers, the prospect of the fight working its way into neighborhood polling stations is frightening county elections supervisors because the arcane procedure is so unwieldy that it could SHUT DOWN ENTIRE STATIONS EACH TIME IT IS EXERCISED (emphasis mine).

...The sidebar (on the print edition, not the online edition), breaks down the procedure, with my comments in italics:  

1. The observer cites reasons for the challenge in an affadavit.

2. The would-be voter is notifed of the challenge and asked to file a written response.

3. Precinct workers (that is, all those INSIDE the polling station on Election Day) vote on whether the challenge should be upheld or denied.  The article later states that at this time ALL voting in the entire polling place is suspended during this part of the procedure, while the precinct workers convene to consider a challenge!

4. If the poll workers uphold the challenge, the voter is allowed to fill out a provisional ballot to be considered later by the county canvassing board.

The governing statute, Title IX, Chapter 101.111, can be found here.  This is meant to be used in isolated, individual cases only.  Two election supervisors interviewed for the story, both Republicans, stated they had essentially never encountered challenges brought under provisions of this statute.

The Republicans are doing this because there are no provisions for filing challenges before Election Day.  The prospect of having entire precincts shut down to address challenges under this statute is very bad.

The St. Petersburg Times reports (via Buzzflash):

Gov. Jeb Bush said Wednesday he would have no problem if Republican poll watchers challenge the eligibility of voters before they cast ballots on Election Day, despite growing concern that it could create gridlock and scare away qualified voters.

"I don't think it will cause problems," Bush said. "I do think that people who are not eligible to vote shouldn't and the people who are should."

UPDATE 10/30/04

Norwood at Dailykos adds this new, unsuprising twist:

Now, state GOP officials are making a big stink over what they say are ineligible ex-felons who have already voted or who have registered and plan to vote.  They are threatening to bring in the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate what they claim is an emerging case of fraud.
...
Here's the SP Times.

The Florida Republican Party said Thursday that more than 900 felons already have voted illegally or requested absentee ballots, triggering another controversy over the party's aggressive efforts to identify Floridians who might be unqualified to vote.

Using two controversial and flawed state databases, Republicans also said they identified an additional 13,568 felons expected to vote by Election Day, based on their participation in the 2000 or 2002 elections or their recent registration as a new voter.

The list of 921 felons who have already voted includes 65 names from Hillsborough County; 36 from Pinellas County; 11 from Hernando; three from Citrus; and one from Pasco. The party plans to give all its information to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation.

"We believe this is simply the tip of the iceberg and there could be potentially additional felons who have registered," said Mindy Tucker Fletcher, spokesman for the Florida Republican Party.

But within hours of the Republicans' announcement came indications that the GOP list may suffer some of the same problems that caused Secretary of State Glenda Hood to scrap her controversial list of 47,763 suspected felon voters in July.

Reporters for the St. Petersburg Times quickly found two Tampa Bay area individuals on the GOP list who say they have had their voting rights restored.

Records show Neal D. Bolinger, 57, of St. Petersburg had his rights restored in 1974, two years after his conviction for grand larceny, and has been voting ever since.

He used an absentee ballot last week to vote straight Republican.

It's the second time in four years his name has been flagged. He had to convince Pinellas County election officials in 2000 that he was qualified.

"If every four years I come up on the list and have to have myself reinstated, that will become a problem, and I'll have to start shaking some trees," he said.

Tampa resident Jeffrey Arnold, 44, said he received his clemency more than a dozen years ago and has been voting ever since. The exact status of Arnold and others could not be confirmed Thursday by the Times.

Fletcher acknowledges the GOP's list started with flawed data.

Besides the state's controversial felon voting list, it relied on a Florida Parole Commission clemency list, updated through Oct.14, that has proven inaccurate in the past because it does not include many felons whose rights were restored under Gov. Reubin Askew in the 1970s.

"We felt it was important to see if supervisors (of elections) had done their jobs and cleaned their list when some admitted they hadn't," Fletcher said. "We wanted to see if the law was being broken across the state systematically."

But some supervisors countered that the list came from the same database Hood had ordered them not to use.

"Why would they use a list that is determined to have errors?" asked Pinellas supervisor Deborah Clark. "If their real objective is to keep ineligible voters from casting ballots, why didn't they give the list to supervisor of elections right away? No one from the Republican Party has contacted me."

Hillsborough Supervisor Buddy Johnson sounded a similar theme.

"I don't have the same information," he said. "I'm not removing anyone off any voter list until I have ascertained that they are in fact a felon."

Blogwood has an update from the St. Petersburg Times:

Hoping to ease rising concern over voter challenges, state elections officials on Friday released new guidelines for handling such challenges without delaying other voters.

The four-page memo from state Elections Director Dawn Roberts was an attempt to clarify a 109-year-old election law that in recent days has generated widespread anxiety about whether it would be used to deter voters.

The memo emphasizes that voter challenges must be resolved without delaying other voters.

It says that even if a challenge is successful, the voter must be given the option to file a provisional ballot. And it reaffirms that inclusion on a controversial state felon list is not sufficient evidence to sustain a challenge.

The new guidelines are the state's first formal response to concerns that the arcane poll watcher law has the potential to cause problems on Election Day. As recently as Wednesday, Gov. Jeb Bush said he didn't expect poll watcher challenges to be a problem.

"Everybody is more focused on this now days before the election," said Deputy Secretary of State Alia Faraj. "We wanted to make sure that supervisors are clear on the procedures outlined in state law. . . . It requires more than just (a poll watcher) pointing at someone in the precinct. There's a process in place."

Faraj said the memo, sent to county elections officials on Thursday, was written after repeated conversations with local election officials, who reported multiple inquiries from attorneys.

Republican Party officials have said they are considering having their poll watchers challenge felons or other voters they consider ineligible.

On Thursday, the GOP unveiled part of its research: a list of 921 felons that it thinks have already voted early or requested an absentee ballot in violation of state law. The list was culled from flawed state databases.
...
Mindy Tucker Fletcher, spokesman for the Florida Republican Party, called the memo "reasonable and balanced. If there is one thing we learned from 2000, it's that it's important to have the rules laid out beforehand."

Supervisors of elections appeared to welcome the advice as they braced for record numbers of poll watchers. By the end of the day Friday, more than a dozen counties had talked with state elections officials to say they planned to follow Roberts' guidelines.

UPDATE 10/31/04

Robin at Dailykos has this update:

I guess it's naive of me to keep being shocked by this kind of thing, but I really hope I will never read news like this and just shrug it off as par for the course:

From this morning's St. Petersburg Times

In Miami-Dade County, Democrats said, 59 percent of predominantly black precincts have at least one Republican poll watcher, while 24 percent of predominantly white precincts have them. In Leon County, 64 percent of black precincts have at least one Republican poll watcher, compared with 24 percent of majority white precincts. In Alachua, 71 percent of black precincts have a Republican poll watcher assigned, while 24 percent of white precincts do.

 

10/22/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 11/1/04
Low income, minority and elderly Florida voters (a Democratic leaning group) fraudulently asked to give away absentee ballots to strangers pretending to be election officials; others illegally asked to vote "at home" or provide information on parking tickets, debt or arrest records. 

Via Atrios, we have this report in the St. Petersburg Times (bold text is my emphasis):

Pasco elections officials have a warning for the county's absentee voters: Don't give your ballot to a stranger claiming to be from the elections office.

They're not who they say they are.

"The people who are soliciting your ballots in this manner are not elections officials," Pasco Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning warned Thursday.

The warning came after a phone call from a west Pasco woman. Other Florida counties have gotten similar complaints.

"We've had a bunch of them - 100 at least," said Bob Sweat, elections supervisor for Manatee County. "It's probably going on all over the state of Florida."

The Pasco woman said someone came to her home to collect her absentee ballot earlier this week. She said she was led to believe they were from the elections office. The woman told the strangers she hadn't completed the ballot, but they took it anyway.
...
Browning's office had not yet received the woman's absentee ballot Thursday. Given the circumstances, Browning arranged to send her another.

Other counties have had numerous complaints about similar misrepresentations.

"We've had a few people with those complaints - I'd say less than 10," said Dan Nolan, chief of staff for Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson. Johnson said he routinely advises voters to send their absentee ballots in via mail, or to bring it directly to his office.

In Manatee, there have been numerous complaints, and the Sheriff's Office is investigating.

Manatee Elections Supervisor Sweat said the people collecting the ballots appeared to know exactly who had absentee ballots. It is possible for political parties, candidates and political groups to get lists of voters who request the absentee ballots.

Sweat said it appeared the collections were occurring in neighborhoods full of low-income, minority and elderly residents.
...
In his warning, Browning said, "I need to make it very clear that my office will never show up at your place of residence to collect your absentee ballot."

Here's another report in the St. Petersburg Times, via Election Protection:

When Dolores Cuellar of Orlando opened her door and saw a woman with a clipboard, she didn't hesitate to say which candidate she preferred.

"Not Bush," said Cuellar, 42. "The other one."

The woman told Cuellar she didn't need to bother going to the polls. She would mark Cuellar's vote on a piece of paper right there. And while she was at it, she also would record a vote for Cuellar's 18-year-old daughter.

Cuellar, who had never voted before, said she mistakenly thought she had just voted.

"You never know what can be true or what can't be true," said her daughter, Julie Herrera, who later grew suspicious and called county elections officials.

Across Florida, elections officials say voters are being approached by individuals misrepresenting themselves and offering misleading or inaccurate information about voting.

Voters cannot vote at home and do not have to answer personal questions before casting a ballot, election officials say. Election officials won't show up unannounced at private homes, either.

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson said he has heard about a group asking voters at the County Center if they have ever been arrested, have outstanding parking tickets or any debt.

People holding clipboards stood outside the County Center last week, offering to direct voters to the 16th-floor election office. They said they were from a voter registration office.

Real election officials would never ask questions about voters' debts, Johnson said.

Other voters say people are coming to their homes, asking to take absentee ballots. Some say they work for the elections office.

"We don't want anyone to think that it is the supervisor of elections that is coming around," said Lori Hudson, a spokeswoman for the Pinellas elections office.

Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark also said voters should not give out personal information such as Social Security numbers to callers. Officials won't phone for that information.

Both major political parties are legitimately attempting to collect absentee ballots in the Tampa Bay area.

"It is perfectly consistent with the law," said Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Florida. He said Kerry-Edwards workers will identify themselves and make sure absentee ballots are delivered to elections offices.

Even so, some voters say they have grown uneasy with people who come to their doors without identification or name tags. Last Saturday, two men came to Brian Reale's door in St. Petersburg to ask for his absentee ballot.

He said they told him: "It's better if we take it."

Reale, 68, said he told them to come back Monday, but they never returned.

Rachel Bernstein of St. Petersburg said a man came to the home of her 80-year-old grandmother last Thursday and told her he was there for her absentee ballot.

She declined to turn it over. A few days later, another group asked for her ballot, Bernstein said.

Her grandmother later mailed the absentee ballot - but not from her own mailbox.

"She was worried someone would come to her mailbox and take it out in the middle of the night," Bernstein said.

Earlier this year, activist groups collected hundreds of voter registration forms - and then never turned them in.

Clark, the Pinellas elections chief, said her office received reports of people setting up voter registration tables at East Lake Community Library during the first week of early voting. She said the action is likely illegal; voter registration ended on Oct. 4.

In Pasco County, dozens of people received calls from someone claiming to be from the elections office. They were told their absentee ballots had not arrived.

Pasco Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning said his office received about 60 calls from voters seeking to verify the calls.

"We don't have a clue who it was," Browning said. "It angers me. It's misleading."

Melba Hamilton, Browning's chief deputy, said the office had received all of the callers' absentee ballots.

"It is creating some fear in the public that there are some more issues in Florida with the ballots not counting," Hamilton said. "I don't know if that's their motive, but it is certainly a byproduct."

 

10/21/04_2 [Permalink] UPDATED 11/1/04
Another GOP funded outfit [Young Political Majors, run by Marc Jacoby] deceives students at the University of Florida by registering (or trying to register) them as Republican. Students in multiple Florida campuses report similar scams (perpetrators unclear), and in some cases changed addresses (which could make it difficult for them to vote).

Via Dailykos, we have this report:

Alachua County's Elections Supervisor Beverly Hill says she gave more than 500 voter registration forms to local prosecutors.

That's because some people say their party affiliation was fraudulently changed to Republican. Last week, Hill says her office began reviewing the forms collected at the University of Florida and other schools by Mark Jacoby. He worked for a contractor that signed up voters for the Republican Party of Florida. Jacoby says he asked every person to initial a box on the form to indicate they wanted to change party affiliation. State Republican adviser Mindy Tucker says she was assured that all registration workers disclosed their attempts to obtain Republican party affiliations.

Also see this report:

UF students questioned the activities of a for-profit, Republican-sponsored voter drive last week after it improperly was held on campus.

For-profit companies are not allowed to work at the university without prior authorization, and Young Political Majors LLC did not seek UF approval before beginning its drive last week, said Lohse Beeland, director of student activities.

After talking with the group, she said UF officials decided YPM could continue working on campus as long as it adheres to university policies.

However, some students later were concerned that YPM representatives reportedly pressured students to register as Republicans.

Ted Terry, president of the liberal Gator Greens, said he plans to file a complaint against the group with UF and local officials after his own encounter with the YPM drive.

After signing the petition, Terry said he became suspicious because a YPM employee checked off a box to change his party affiliation and asked him to sign the registration form.

“They just marked party change, but they never checked what party to change to,” Terry said. “I was never going to check the party affiliation box, so it seemed suspicious they marked the party change box.”

Kelly Mangan, outreach coordinator for the liberal Civic Media Center, said she observed YPM employees registering students to vote, and many students did not understand that they were changing their party affiliations.

Matt Carrillo, a political science sophomore and registered Republican, said he registered to vote with the group outside of the Reitz Union.

“I filled the form out and left the party affiliation blank, then [the YPM employee] asked me to initial next to my party affiliation,” Carrillo said.

Carrillo said he didn’t understand why his initials were needed next to his party affiliation, especially since he left it blank, which made him wonder if YPM officials later planned to fill in a party affiliation for him.

Although his company encourages students to register Republican, it is not sneaky in doing so, said YPM owner Mark Jacoby, who added he worked for Al Gore’s campaign in the 2000 presidential election. [eRiposte note: So what? You are paid by the GOP now!]

Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Beverly Hill said although it is illegal to alter registration forms after they have been signed by the registrants, it is not illegal to persuade people to register with a particular party.

Jacoby added, “There is a great significance to someone initialing by the Republican [affiliation].” He would not comment further on the issue, referring all future questions to the state Republican party.

Jacoby, who told Hill he plans to turn in the forms this morning, said the complaints are an example of partisan politics.

“There’s a group that opposes the fact that we’re paid,” Jacoby said. “We’re just doing what we were contracted to do.”

YPM is fully aware of all equal access laws, he said, and will turn in registration forms for all participants - including those who are not Republican.

Hill said students need to be aware of all persons who approach them on campus.

“Don’t sign something for someone when you don’t know what they’re doing,” she said, “especially when it seems fishy.”

More in this Chicago Tribune article, via dkosopedia:

Authorities in at least three Florida counties are investigating more than 4,000 suspicious voter-registration forms submitted on behalf of college students, some of whom say they already had registered elsewhere or that their party affiliation was changed to Republican without permission.

Although the reasons for the mystery were unclear Tuesday, reports of registration irregularities have popped up elsewhere as states count down to the Nov. 2 election. Supervisors in Florida said the latest problems could end up invalidating the votes of some unwary students next month.

"I decided it was fraud," Alachua County elections supervisor Beverly Hill said Tuesday, a day after she turned over about 500 of roughly 1,200 suspicious forms to the local State Attorney's Office in Gainesville. She said her staff spot-checked 30 of them, "And they were, across the board [saying], 'No, I never intended to do that.' "

Leon County elections supervisor Ion Sancho said he's received 3,000 photocopied registration forms, some of which he showed to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement because they looked strange and did not seem to make sense.

About 1,000 of the forms named black students from Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College. Nearly all claimed to be registering as Republicans, yet that county's black population is overwhelmingly registered Democratic, Sancho said.

In Orlando, the University of Central Florida police are investigating similar claims, though only 10 complaints have surfaced so far.

Most of these irregularities seem to stem from get-out-the-vote efforts that have been used across the state to add thousands of voters to the rolls. But circumstances differ from campus to campus.

At Valencia Community College and the University of Central Florida, a number of students reported signing petitions about abortion rights or favoring medical marijuana, only to later receive registration forms in the mail that they say they never requested.

At the University of Florida in Gainesville and at the Tallahassee schools, elections officials received large numbers of forms that looked doctored or showed heavy Republican registration in areas where Democrats are a clear majority.

Alachua supervisor Hill, a Democrat, said that the documents that raised alarms came from one student, Mark Jacoby, who handed in 1,218 forms -- nearly all of them from students claiming to want to be registered as Republicans.

Of those, 510 named people who already were registered in Alachua. Hill turned those over to local prosecutors. The rest were new registrants. Hill said she went ahead and processed them, to be sure the people could vote.

Contacted by phone Tuesday, Jacoby said he'd heard of Hill's concerns, but said he asked every newly registered voter to initial a box on the form to indicate they wanted to change party affiliation in cases where it mattered.

Jacoby declined to answer many questions, but he said he worked for a private firm that paid him to collect signatures. He declined to name that company or who ultimately paid for the work.

A senior adviser to the Republican Party of Florida confirmed later Tuesday that Jacoby worked for Arno Political Consultants, a firm subcontracted to register voters at UF, UCF and possibly other campuses.

The senior Republican adviser, Mindy Tucker Fletcher, said she had checked on the GOP efforts and was assured that all UCF and UF registration workers disclosed attempts by workers to obtain Republican party affiliations.

"They took extra steps . . . to make sure people knew they were registering as Republicans," Fletcher said.

Fletcher said she could not explain why all 30 people contacted by the Alachua supervisor's office said they did not want to be classified Republican.

"I can't guarantee you that's what those people were thinking when they signed that form that day," Fletcher said. "People really may not want to own up to that now."

UCF student Audrey Berk said she signed an abortion-rights petition in August and then, at the urging of the person collecting signatures, signed another sheet to confirm her identity. She didn't think much of it then.

But weeks later the Orlando Democrat got a letter from Orange County elections supervisor Bill Cowles informing Berk that the registration application she sent in that indicated a switch to the Republican Party was missing some information.

Confused, she called the election office to sort out what happened.

"I've made several calls to make sure I will be able to vote," said Burke, 23. "But if I hadn't done anything, it could have been a real mess."

In many cases, students registered as Republican against their wishes will have no problem voting Nov. 2. But a student registered legally in one county and falsely in another could have problems.

Leon County's Sancho said that his stepdaughter, Ashley Herrald, a UCF student, signed a petition on campus favoring medical marijuana, then got an Orange County voter card that she never requested. She plans to vote absentee in Leon County, but would have had her vote thrown out if she had not cleared up the issue, he said.

Via Victor Laszlo at Dailykos, here is another story from USF:

Janelle Elliot thought she was signing a petition supporting stricter child molestation laws in Florida. The voter registration card she received in the mail told a different story.

Elliot is one of many USF students to fall victim to a scam tricking college students into registering to vote as Republicans.

The ploy has been uncovered at several college campuses across the country, including the University of Central Florida earlier this month. Students are asked to fill out a form asking for personal information, and some time later receive a notice from the county election supervisor's office about a change in their party affiliation.

"I had read the article in The Oracle earlier that day about the UCF students," Elliot said. "When I got home, I had a new voter registration card in the mail; and I knew exactly what it was."

Elliot was not only a registered voter in Palm Beach County but also had never filled out an absentee ballot. She noticed her political party was listed as Republican when she had initially registered herself as Independent.

Elliot said she registered to vote at the DMV, so she didn't recognize the paperwork she filled out was a voter registration form.

"I was frustrated. The one time I thought (signing a petition) was a good reason, I decided to stop, and I got screwed over," said Elliot, who explained further that she would never stop to fill out any paperwork from a petition worker again. "I just think it was shady that that's what Republican Party has to do to get voters."

Another USF student, sophomore Justin Lawandales, was also fooled. Lawandales said the people who asked him to sign the petition identified themselves as being associated with the Republican Party.

"It makes it hard to trust the people who are out there actually trying to do good things," Lawandales said.

Lawandales said the form he signed had no indication that it was a voter registration form. He said he signed his name to what looked like a petition, gave the people some personal information -- including the last four digits of his social security number -- and a month later received his new voter registration card in the mail.

Joe Lupia, a freshman at USF, said in early September a group approached him on campus and asked him to sign a petition to change child molestation laws. Lupia said the people were carrying voter registration forms, asking him for general information and whether he was registered to vote.

"When I noticed she was filling out the voter registration form, I stopped, saying I was already registered. She repeatedly told me that wasn't what she was doing," Lupia said.

Lupia, suspicious of the woman, told her to cross out his name from the form before he walked away.

"I don't know exactly what they were doing that day," he said, "but it wasn't just getting signatures for child molestation laws."

A group in Nevada known as Youth Voter Outreach is being prosecuted for a similar plot, using the child molestation law petition to fool young voters. Members there have admitted their affiliation with the Republican Party.

John Duddy, president of USF's College Democrats, said at least a dozen students had contacted him saying their registration had been unknowingly changed. He also said any students who think they may have had their registration changed can call a hotline for help at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

In Florida, voter fraud is a class three felony, said Dan Nolan, chief supervisor of the Hillsborough County Voter Registration office.

Nolan, aware of the situation at USF and UCF, has been working with the USF police and State Attorney's office in trying to trace back the crimes to a certain individual.

"When we're able to trace it back to an individual, we'll have a case," Nolan said.

Nolan urges anyone who thinks they may have been duped into changing their party affiliation to make corrections on the card and then send it back to the Hillsborough County Election office so they may make the corrections.

"Voter I.D. is our responsibility to you," Nolan said.

He said that the voter registration card does not need to be presented at the polls; it's only to inform voters of their voting precinct.

"It won't make a difference in this election, but it could have made a difference in the primaries," Nolan said.

Registered voters tricked into changing party affiliation can vote for whichever party they please; however, Elliot and Lupia are still concerned.

"No matter what party it's for it's unethical. Who knows how many students have fallen for that," Lupia said. "Not everyone is as politically savvy as me."

UPDATE 11/1/04

Here's a report in the Washington Post:

"In my 16 years as an election administrator, I've never seen anything like this," said Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Leon County, Fla. "I see it as an expression of a political culture that has evolved in the United States of win at any cost. It's not partisan, but it's just lie, cheat and steal, and ethics be damned."

The problem in Leon County: Students at Florida State and Florida A&M universities, some of whom signed petitions to legalize medical marijuana or impose stiffer penalties for child molesters, unknowingly had their party registration switched to Republican and their addresses changed.

Officials say students at the University of Florida in Alachua County have made similar complaints and that about 4,000 potential voters in all have been affected. Local papers have traced some of the problems to a group hired by the Florida Republican Party, which has denounced the shenanigans. Switching voters' party affiliations does not affect their ability to vote, but changing addresses does, because when voters shows up at their proper polling places, they will not be registered there.

 

10/21/04 [Permalink]
Workers of left-leaning but non-partisan group ACORN involved in fraud in Florida involving registrations falsified to register students as Republican; this, in combination with other data from an incident in MN suggests workers were defrauding ACORN

Here is the relevant article (via Digby, who says "If I were a suspicious person, I might think that some enterprising GOP dirty tricksters were infiltrating liberal voter registration groups"):

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating 1,500 voter registration forms received by the Leon County elections office that apparently were altered to register local students as Republicans.

County elections supervisor Ion Sancho said it was suspicious enough that the registration forms were all photocopies, but the new voters were also between the ages of 18-24, a group that often registers with no party affiliation.
...
The Leon County case is one of several being looked at around the state. In some cases, there are reports of bogus addresses, forms coming in with false information and registered voters who are being reregistered without their knowledge.

In St. Petersburg, former Mayor Charles Schuh received a letter saying he was ineligible to vote in the Aug. 31 primary because his registration application wasn't received on time. He later learned that the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now had turned in a registration form with his correct name, address and phone number, but the wrong date of birth, final four digests of his Social Security number and gender.
...
Brian Kettenring, the head organizer for Florida ACORN, said, "We take these 1,500 cards as seriously as the 212,298 that we collected this past year. And for that reason we are working with the state attorney to insure the integrity of every registration.

"The law is the law and everybody needs to know they need to follow the law."

In Leon County, the alleged fraud could have meant the 1,500 applicants wouldn't be allowed to vote. Sancho, however, said he is placing the people on the voting rolls with no party affiliation.

"They will be eligible to vote in November," Sancho said. "We are not going to allow lawbreakers to profit by their actions." 

Aikido Pilgrim at Dailykos provides this update on other allegations made by a former ACORN worker against ACORN:

A good friend of mine is working hard in Florida registering voters, and pushing for a higher minimum wage, with ACORN. He's given me the inside scoop on what Republicans are falsely calling "Democrats trying to steal the election", and are using to distract from the real voter fraud perpetrated by Nathan Sproul and Associates.
...
First - ACORN's voter registration work is entirely non-partisan. While it does focus on minority communities and is therefore reasonably seen as leaning democratic - people are welcome to register regardless of affiliation.

The allegations of impropriety are coming from a guy, Mac Stuart, they terminated on August 5th "for failing to follow our procedures of how to run a proper voter registration effort." My friend adds " we were concerned that his failure to follow our protocols was inappropriate and could possibly lead to other problems."

Now we get to the good part - how good a witness is this guy? Not very -

Two weeks later, we were contacted by Total Bank in FL that he has attempted to cash a $5000 check from a donor and has crossed out another name and written in his own. We have a copy of this check and a signed affadavit from that attorney. We are presently, and have been for several weeks, trying to get law enforcement to investigate this matter.
My friend continues:

After we fired Mr. Stuart, he alleged that we were pulling out Republican cards. This is absolutely, completely untrue. To date, Mr. Stuart has presented no evidence, and there is none. He did get a number of papers and TV stations to air his attacks on us, though none but one even bothered to contact us about the situation. Apparently, Stuart shows in one of the TV interviews a large stack of Republican cards that were allegedly held by us. Now obviously they are or were in his possession. I believe that either 1. he swiped these during his employment with us; or 2. he collected these after we fired him and is using them to embarrass us.

This comment from Fred in Vermont in Dailykos provides more details on another claim against ACORN in Minnesota, which was attributed to a former worker of ACORN who had been fired because he was defrauding ACORN:

Then, just this weekend, a car was stopped for a minor traffic violation, and 300 cards were discovered in that trunk.  I assume there will be a decision on indictment early this week.  Again it was a former ACORN worker.
Here is a link to a story about that case. St. Paul Pioneer Press | 10/16/2004 | Voter registration cards bring felony charge it looks like the guy was doing a fraud on ACORN rather than being some sort of GOP plant.

Reed had been fired from his canvassing job with the Association of Community Organizations Seeking Reform Now, or ACORN, about two months before the voter registration cards were found in his trunk during a routine traffic stop Sept. 22.

[. . . ]Early this month, Becky Gomer, the chief organizer for ACORN's voter registration drive, said Reed was one of a number of canvassers whom ACORN paid to register voters at a rate of $1 per voter.

Gomer said ACORN supervisors fired Reed early this summer after hearing from Hennepin County investigators that they suspected Reed of registering some voters more than once to increase his pay. [. . . ]

[DA] Klobuchar said: "He has been charged with a pretty straightforward charge. We are doing a further investigation of forgery charges involving duplicate cards."

More here.

 

10/18/04 [PermalinkUPDATED 11/1/04
Jeb Bush's indifference to voting rights in Florida start to show up at the polling booth with insufficient or faulty voting machines, long downtimes, and disenchanted early voters - not to mention self-contradictory absentee ballot instructions. Additionally, Duval County where Jacksonville is located had only one early voting site open, far from African American precincts - and some group was videotaping voters.

Via Geheimbundler at Dailykos, here's a report from the Sun-Sentinel that shows exactly what happens to voters' enthusiasm when voting technology is not ready for prime time:

As long lines gathered at polls, early voters at nine of Broward County's 14 sites ran into computer-generated problems on Monday.

Gisela Salas, of the Broward Elections Office, said workers had problems connecting with a live database that is used to verify that a voter is properly registered in the county.

The sites, Salas said, that were unaffected were at satellite offices in Deerfield Beach, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines and Plantation.

All 14 of the branch offices had problems with the database connection. Many of the sites had numerous voters lined up to cast their ballots. Some reported waiting in lines up to 2-1/2 hours to vote.

A work-around was created by calling in each voter's name to the main Election's Office in Fort Lauderdale. Two office workers were assigned to each phone, Salas said, for a slowed verification process. The workers would plug into the database, and verify that the voter in one of the branch sites was indeed registered to vote.

Shortly after 2 p.m., some of the branch sites, which were using laptop computers, began getting back online and gaining access to the database. And shortly after 3 p.m., all but one of the branch sites -- the one in Oakland Park -- were back online.

Salas said it was not yet known what went wrong to cause the glitch.

Voters at several sites said poll workers told them the problems started 20 minutes to 30 minutes after the early polling stations opened at 8:30 a.m. The stations close at 6 p.m.

At the Tamarac branch public library, where voting stopped after the computer glitch, Sally Zwanger, a poll watcher for the Kerry campaign, claimed the problems reflected the inability of Gov. Jeb Bush's administration to fix voting problems left over from the 2000 election.

"The worst thing to hear was, 'I support Kerry, but I can't wait in this line,'" she said. "We are having a repeat of 2000, and it's only in Florida that this could happen. This administration would do anything to ensure that he [Bush] stays in office."

Zwanger said at one point there were 63 people in line, most of whom had gone home without voting by 11 a.m.

She also said waiting voters were told at 8:30 a.m. that every voting location in Broward County was closed. But she found out after calling the Broward County Elections Office headquarters that the Plantation location and four others were still open.

Susan Emert waited for two hours - starting at 8:20 a.m. -- before she finally had to leave for work.

"They had all the time from when they said the voting machines will be used, all the time to perfect them, and here we are, up the creek," she said, throwing her arms wildly up in the air. "This is really another black eye for the county. I'm so fed up."

Before leaving, however, Emert was able to get a number from an elections official. It will allow her to receive priority placement in the line when she returns.

Most of the voters waiting in the line were seniors, and many shared Emert's frustration. They repeatedly uttered phrases such as, "This is ridiculous," and "This is so frustrating."

Lucien Gennaro, a police aide in Coral Springs, waited for an hour at a public library to cast his vote Monday morning, before he had to leave for work.

``A lot of people who were waiting just left. I'll try again tomorrow,'' he said. ``It was a little frustrating after what happened in 2000.''

In Palm Beach County, the center of the madness during the 2000 presidential recount, a state legislator said she wasn't given a complete absentee ballot when she asked not to use the electronic touch-screen machines. In Orange County, the computer system that lists voters briefly crashed, paralyzing voting in Orlando and its immediate suburbs. And in Broward County several sites had problems with laptops connected to elections headquarters.

State Rep. Shelley Vana, D-Lantana, was the seventh person in line Monday at a Palm Beach County early voting site.

She said the paper absentee ballot she received was missing one of its two pages, including the proposed amendments to the state constitution. She said election workers were indifferent when she pointed out the oversight.

``There was absolutely no concern on the part of the folks at the Supervisor of Elections Office that this page was missing. This is not a good start. If there are incomplete ballots out there, I can't imagine I would be the only one getting it,'' she said.

Elections supervisor Theresa LePore did not immediately return a call for comment.

UPDATE 10/19/04:
The Progress Report has this note:

Meanwhile, citizens in Gov. Bush's state began casting votes on Monday, "and within an hour problems cropped up." A Democratic state legislator in Palm Beach County said she wasn't given a complete ballot when she opted to use paper instead of the touch-screen machine, and "in Orange County, the touch-screen system briefly crashed, paralyzing voting in Orlando and its immediate suburbs." Meanwhile, "early voters at nine of Broward County's 14 sites ran into computer-generated problems." The breakdowns resulted in long lines and many would-be voters leaving for work. A coalition of private citizens and elected officials plan to file a lawsuit to avoid similar problems in New Jersey.

Via Buzzflash, we have this report about self-contradictory absentee ballot instructions!

TAMPA - Kelley Moore opened up his absentee ballot Friday and began reading the instructions. When it came to marking the ballot, the more he read the more confusing it became.

The official printed ballot was clear enough.

It said to mark choices with a No. 2 pencil. But a mimeographed instruction sheet provided by the office of Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson cast doubt on that. The sheet said to use black or blue ink or a dark pencil.

"I thought about it awhile and I decided to call and ask," said Moore, 59, a retired salesman who lives on Davis Islands. "They (at Johnson's office) said the information about the No. 2 pencil was incorrect. I was told to use a dark pen.

"But then I thought, what if I use a pen and I don't follow the instructions on the ballot - will they throw it out?"

Edith Schrier was in a similar quandary Friday. Schrier, 46, a Forest Hills resident who runs her own coin and jewelry company, also read both sets of instructions, also called Johnson's office and also was told: disregard the ballot and use a dark pen.

Schrier wasn't satisfied. She called local Democratic officials. They advised her to do what the ballot said: use a pencil.

"But then I thought, what if someone erases it," said Schrier "They could still tamper with it."

Since the disputed presidential election of 2000, when hanging chad, butterfly ballots and aborted recounts raised the consciousness - and paranoia level - of Florida voters, suspicions about ballot-marking instructions can't be dismissed.

Friday afternoon, Johnson said he had great sympathy for voters confused by dual instructions.

He also said absentee voters can use a dark pencil or a blue or black pen and have confidence their votes will be recorded.

"I understand completely," said Johnson. "I think the instructions could be clearer. In an effort to be helpful, we added the second set of instructions. Perhaps next time, we'll try to make it more consistent."

Johnson pointed out that the printed sheet of instructions cautioned voters not to use red ink, which is not easily read by optical scanners.

Alfie Charles, spokesman for Sequoia Voting Systems, which this year printed nearly 56,000 absentee ballots for Hillsborough, said Friday that optical scan devices "will read black ink, blue ink or dark pencil equally well." Charles was also sympathetic about local voters' concerns.

"People in Florida were told they weren't following directions in the 2000 election, and I think they're trying to make sure they do this year," he said. "There's an increased level of awareness now. People are just trying to do the right thing."

But Moore said his effort to get it right just made him angry.

"The voters in Florida look pretty dumb to the rest of the U.S.," he said. "You'd think we could at least get this straight."

UPDATE 10/21/04:

Via reader PT, this post on 10/19/04 by chicagoprogressive in Dailykos:

But in Duval County, home to the 840 square mile city of Jacksonville, the challenge ahead of us is great.  There is exactly one Early Vote site open here and, as reported in last week's Washington Post, it is located miles from most of the majority Black precincts.

ACT's canvassers and fleet of vans are spread thin trying to compensate for this suppression by Florida Republicans.  We need to put more canvassers on the streets of Jacksonville right away to drive voters to the polls.

Please help us get voters of Duval County to the polls.  $75 contributed now will field another canvasser to help elect Democrats in federal, state and local elections. CLICK HERE TO DONATE: https://secure.acthere.com/modules/contribution/contribute.php?b=florida

Please contribute to fund ACT's work in Duval County.

Outrage is already spreading across the community causing Republican Secretary of State Glenda Hood to announce that the state will add another 2-4 early vote sites in the area, but she's given no indication of when.

Via Political Physics, there's more from the Washington Post/MSNBC:

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Nearly a dozen African American ministers and civil rights leaders walked into the Duval County election office here, television cameras in tow, with a list of questions: How come there were not more early voting sites closer to black neighborhoods? How come so many blacks were not being allowed to redo incomplete voter registrations? Who was deciding all this?

Standing across the office counter under a banner that read "Partners in Democracy" was the man who made those decisions, election chief Dick Carlberg. Visibly angry, the Republican explained why he decided the way he had: "We call it the law."

Black leaders said the scene at the supervisor's office last week was reminiscent of a blocked schoolhouse door at the height of desegregation. They charge that GOP officials are deliberately using the law to keep black people off the rolls and hinder them from voting.

Wide disparity
Four years ago, ballots cast from black neighborhoods throughout Florida were four times as likely to go uncounted as those from white neighborhoods. Nowhere was the disparity more apparent than in Duval County, where 42 percent of 27,000 ballots thrown out came from four heavily Democratic black precincts.
...
In Duval County, 31,155 black voters had been added to the rolls by the end of last week. That is more than the total number of ballots nullified here four years ago, in a race that George W. Bush won by 537 votes.

But hundreds more could show up at the polls only to find they cannot vote. The office has flagged 1,448 registrations as incomplete, and as of last week had yet to process 11,500 more.

Many flagged registrations
A Washington Post analysis found nearly three times the number of flagged Democratic registrations as Republican. Broken down by race, no group had more flagged registrations than blacks.

This, in a heavily GOP county where records show that the numbers of blacks added to the rolls since 2000 approximately equals the number of non-Hispanic whites.

Some registrations were missing critical information, such as a signature. Others had different problems, with some people listing post office boxes instead of street addresses or putting street addresses on the wrong line.

Secretary of State Glenda E. Hood, a Republican appointed by the president's brother Gov. Jeb Bush, recently ruled that for registrations to be deemed complete, new voters must not only sign an oath attesting to their citizenship, but also check a box that states the same. Unlike many counties, which have chosen to ignore the directive, Duval County chose to enforce it.

Carlberg, who is acting election chief because his superior is ill, told the ministers that the office did the best it could to contact applicants who submitted incomplete forms, but the law says that "if they aren't complete now, they're not going into the system."

Carlberg's office, as well as Hood's, said the real blame belongs with the Democratic-leaning groups that targeted minority voters and then turned in sloppy and incomplete registrations. The disproportionate number of black Democratic registrations flagged, said Carlberg spokeswoman Erin Moody, is a function of "who those groups are targeting."

But during the 10-minute confrontation at Carlberg's office last week, the ministers argued that the election official had stalled in processing new registrations until it was too late to fix them by the Oct. 4 cutoff. "You kept them in a box in a cage," charged Edward Exson of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

UPDATE 10/25/04:

Simply Appalling (via Buzzflash) has more:

Videotaping the voters

It was wonderfully convenient to have only one polling site. It made it so much easier to set up an intimidation campaign.

On Thursday,

...the elections office contacted police after Democrats complained about men videotaping people in front of the office all day. U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown and coalition members confronted them in the evening. But Scheu said the videotaping was allowed on a public sidewalk across the street.

"We're powerless to stop them," Scheu said.

Owner Fred Hillerich of Price Rite Investigations of Jacksonville declined to say who hired his firm to videotape events at the office. But he said he had done the work elsewhere before, and "I ain't doing anything to nobody."

"I'm sure it is, it's intimidation," said the Rev. Willie M. Bolden, a Southern Christian Leadership Conference official who joined others questioning Hillerich. "They're doing all kinds of things across the state."

I don't know if Mr. Hillerich is doing this to intimidate voters, paid for by the Republican party or one of its sympathizers. But if you would like to ask him, here is his contact information—

Email: spott@bellsouth.net
Phone: (904) 779-9815

UPDATE 10/28/04

Via dkosopedia, this story:

With 1.6 million new registered voters since 2000, the nation's most up-to-date system of balloting is showing signs of buckling. Though Election Day does not formally arrive until Tuesday, nine days of early voting have produced their own problems, offering a glimpse into what could lie ahead in a contest that again appears narrowly divided.

Lines have moved so slowly at new touch-screen voting machines that only six votes per hour are being cast in parts of South Florida, a troubling ratio for next week's expected crush of voters. Gov. Jeb Bush ordered election supervisors to "preserve order at the polls" after episodes of voter harassment arose and some workers threatened to abandon their posts when an aide was nearly choked by an angry partisan who grabbed the identification badge around her neck.

UPDATE 11/1/04

Reader radtimes sends in this article:

Welcome to Palm Beach County, home in 2000 of the infamous butterfly ballots, "Jews for Buchanan", and hanging chads. The infamous Supervisor of Elections Theresa LePore was voted out of office in this past August - but unfortunately her term doesn't end until January. That gives her an opportunity to muck up one more election as her parting salvo. And before election day has even arrived, it looks like she's succeeding.
...
Ms. LePore also put obstacles in the way of people wanting to vote early. One of the solutions to the calamity of the 2000 election was to institute early voting, an option for voters to go to the polls up to two weeks in advance. It is estimated that one-third of Florida's voters will take advantage of this new option. Yet after 10 days of voting, out of 744,000 registered voters in Palm Beach County, less than 30,000 had been able to vote early- one of the lowest turnouts in the state. One reason is that Theresa LePore offered her constituents only eight locations for early voting in the entire county, making the waiting time in Palm Beach County longer than anywhere else in the state. "These long lines are ridiculous," said Omar Khan, whose father, a diabetic who was fasting for Ramadan, was forced to abandon his attempt to vote after hours of standing in the hot sun. "Either it is tremendous incompetence or deliberate voter suppression. In either case, the supervisor is not doing her job." Liz Grisaru, a volunteer lawyer with Kerry's Voting Rights Protection Team, said that they had tried to negotiate with Theresa LePore for more early voting locations, more voting machines, more poll workers, and longer hours, but all of their efforts were rebuffed. "The Supervisor has failed miserably in her duty to the public by not responding to the large volume of voters," said Ms. Grisaru.

 

10/12/04 [Permalink] UPDATED 10/30/04
GOP Dirty Tricks in Florida continue unabated

Where to start? After having committed large scale vote fraud in the 2000 election - as confirmed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (also see this Vanity Fair article: Part I and Part II and this Nation article) - Florida Governor Jeb Bush has been very busy trying to find similar or new ways to bring about disenfranchisement of voters in Florida this year - especially of minority or Democratic-leaning voters. 

Here are the five vote suppression and fraud incidents in Florida to date.

1. Vote suppression using fake ex-felon list that virtually and conveniently excluded Hispanics (who tend to vote Republican in Florida) but included lots of Blacks (who tend to vote Democratic). 
- After a maelstrom of criticism the decision to use this list in 2004 was scrapped.
- Later, news has emerged that
Jeb Bush ordered that the list be used (originally) even though his Law Enforcement Department's own computer experts advised against it because of concerns about the accuracy of the list

Billmon has a good rundown (bold text is my emphasis):

But it also looks at the latest installment in the ongoing saga of Florida's efforts to "purge" felons from the voting rolls.

As you probably recall, the purge list was one of several methods allegedly used by baby Bush and the dragon lady (you know who I mean) to depress African-American turnout in 2000. The list turned out to be just chock full of voters who had either never been felons, or who had had their voting rights restored in other states. And just by coincidence, the vast majority of these improperly banned voters turned out to be black - evn higher, as I recall, than the already disproportionate number of African Americans in the real Florida felon population.

A simple bureaucratic screw up, baby brother Bush said, and one that wouldn't be repeated. As part of a package of election reforms passed by the state legislature in 2001, Jeb's crew was told not to use felon lists obtained from other states (which had proved so inaccurate the last time around.) The state also reached a settlement with the NAACP that required more diligent matching of names to make sure non-felons weren't being disenfranchised. The Department of Justice also signed off on the new procedures - although not the list itself.

Problem solved? Not hardly. When the CNN asked for a copy of the list (which had almost 50,000 names on it) earlier this year, Jeb's people told them they couldn't have one. Why? Because the GOP-dominated Florida legislature had quietly inserted another provision in the post-2000 election reform package that, in essence, allowed reporters to look at the list, but not to make copies of it. If I remember correctly, this was made the list unique among state records that are subject to public disclosure.

Sorry, Jeb's crew told CNN, but that's the way it goes - we don't make the laws. But they insisted that local election officials and the voters had nothing to worry about - after all, the process now had the NAACP's seal of approval. "The mantra has been 'trust us,' " the head of the Miami League of Women Voters told the Times.

Trust but verify, replied CNN, which along with the First Amendment Foundation and a bunch of Florida newspapers asked a state court to rule that the no-copy rule violated the sunshine state's government-in-the sunshine law, which happens to be written straight into the state constituion.

Two weeks ago the court agreed, and after some hemming and hawing Jeb's crew decided to not to appeal to the Florida Supremes (who must have been salivating at the possibility of a little payback) and released the list.

But once they had a chance to examine the list, it didn't take too long for the media to realize there was something strange about it: It had virtually no Hispanic names on it. Apparently, in the entire state of Florida there were roughly 50 Hispanic ex-cons whose names needed to be lifted from the voting rolls - this in a state where 1 in 5 residents is Hispanic.

Of course, in addition to its size, another noteworthy thing about Florida's Hispanic community (or at least the Cuban part of it) is that it tends to vote heavily Republican. The Cubans went for big brother Bush by something like an 80% margin in the last election.

So once again, coincidence had conspired to create a fraudulent felon list heavily slanted in favor of Jeb Bush's big brother. How unlucky can you get?

This is the very same list, mind you, that the Bush administration (Florida branch) had been promoting as squeaky clean - right up until it was released and the mysterious law-abiding zeal of the state's Hispanic population was discovered.

Then, of course, the story changed. A simple clerical error, the Jebster said - the wrong button pushed, a computer glitch, resulting in a failure to merge two different felon lists (exactly why the names of Hispanic convicts were being kept in a separate file has never really been explained, as far as I know.) And just to show what a good sport he is, Jeb decided tto just forget the whole thing:

"Not including Hispanic felons that may be voters on the list . . . was an oversight and a mistake. . . . And we accept responsibility and that's why we're pulling it back," said Gov. Jeb Bush...

And yet, just days before, various Florida election officials (including the Secretary of State, the Republican ex-mayor of Orlando and a Bush appointee) had been insisting that the felon purge had to go forward this year because it was mandated by the state legislature.

The good news, I guess, is that at least one of the screw ups (intentional or unintentional) that turned Florida into Floriduh four years ago won't be repeated this year. (The fact that the hanging chads will also go away is offset by the black box problem, which may be even worse).

But by now you really have to wonder: How long would Jeb Bush be able to stay off the Florida felon list himself if he wasn't the brother of the president and a member of one of the most powerful political dynasties the country has ever seen? I mean, when your kid tells you the dog ate his homework once, you might not believe it, but you might give him/her the benefit of the doubt. But twice?

How many times does the Bush family have to steal a Florida election before they finally get it right?

Here's Kevin Drum at Political Animal on the "technical glitch" garbage:

VOTER FRAUD IN FLORIDA, PART CXXVI....Publius at Legal Fiction decided today to revisit a story he's written about before, and in the process uncovered some damn good reporting from Chris Davis and Matthew Doig of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Short version: Felons are not allowed to vote in Florida, and last July, after a protracted battle by the state, a federal judge forced Florida election officials to make their newly created felon list public. Surprise! It turned out the list had lots of blacks (who mostly vote Democratic) but virtually no Hispanics (who mostly vote Republican). After a public outcry, the list was scrapped.

Fine. But why were there no Hispanics on the list? Was it just an unforeseen computer glitch or was it deliberate hanky panky? Publius has the full story, and the bottom line is that the evidence seems to indicate that it probably wasn't just a glitch. Go read it.

I'll add one comment of my own. The technical reason that Hispanics were excluded from the list is that Florida officials insisted that no one be purged from voting rolls unless their voter registration record matched perfectly with a prison record. This is a good idea, but it turns out that Hispanics are listed as "white" in the prison database and as "Hispanic" in the voter registration database. Thus, none of them matched perfectly.

Davis and Doig present several pieces of evidence that suggest everyone knew perfectly well this would happen, and all of it makes sense to me. I've been involved in database projects like this before, and they all the work the same way, especially when they're done by a big consulting company like Accenture. The database schemas are all carefully compared with each other, test runs are performed, data conversions are done, and sample data is run and matched against hand-checked data to make sure all the code is working properly. This and more is done multiple times by multiple people (and billed out at $200 per hour). That's just how it works, and an obvious data mismatch like this would leap out almost immediately and set off all sorts of alarms.

In other words, of course they knew. In a project of this size, it's just inconceivable that they didn't. And if CNN and several local newspapers hadn't sued to open up the database, no one would ever have been the wiser.

Disgusting. But hardly unexpected, is it?

UPDATE 10/16/04:

As Kevin had guessed above, Jeb Bush knew the list was erroneous and went ahead with it anyway (before the truth came out). This report in the Sarasota Herald Tribune (via Salon.com's War Room 04) lays out the facts:

Several days before the state's felon voter list was sent to county elections offices across Florida, state officials expressed doubts about its reliability.

The doubts were serious enough that Gov. Jeb Bush was advised to "pull the plug" on the entire project, according to an e-mail written by a state computer expert and obtained by the Herald-Tribune.

Bush refused the request, the e-mail said, and told the Department of State to proceed with the purge of nearly 48,000 voters.

Two months later, after flaws in the list were exposed in the press, the state abandoned the effort to purge voters on the list. Those flaws were revealed after Secretary of State Glenda Hood lost a court battle to keep the list hidden from the public.

Bush said Friday that he was never warned about any problems before the list was released.

But his denial contradicts a May 4, 2004, e-mail in which Florida Department of Law Enforcement computer expert Jeff Long describes how election officials told Bush the list needed to be abandoned.

"Paul Craft called today and told me that yesterday they recommended to the Gov that they 'pull the plug,'" on the voter database, Long wrote in an e-mail to his boss, Donna Uzzell.

Long added that state election officials "weren't comfortable with the felon matching program they've got."

"The Gov rejected their suggestion to pull the plug, so they're 'going live' with it this weekend," Long wrote.

Long was recounting a conversation he had earlier that day with Craft, the Department of State's top computer expert and the point man on the felon purge list.

Long's primary responsibility was to provide Craft with his department's database of convicted felons.

Friday, Long confirmed the contents of the e-mail, saying that he didn't remember the specifics, but Craft told him about the meeting with Bush.

...

...Democrats outnumbered Republicans on the list 3-to-1 and nearly half the list was made up of black voters.

They also noted that Hood had spent more than $100,000 in legal fees fighting to keep the list secret.

After a judge made the purge list public in July, the Herald-Tribune reported that only 61 Hispanics, who tend to vote Republican in Florida, were on the list.

Subsequent reports revealed that the FDLE data did not include Hispanic as one of the race categories, virtually assuring that Hispanic felons would not be matched to Hispanic voters.

So far, Hood's office has characterized the flaws as honest mistakes.

But Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way, said Long's e-mail shows that Bush was responsible for the creation of a flawed list that could help his brother win the presidential election.

"This isn't functionaries making decisions below the governor. This is the governor directly overruling the recommendations of state employees," said Neas, whose group serves as the legal arm of the NAACP. "This shows a direct, personal involvement of the governor in the decisions of state employees directly related to the conduct of elections. It is nothing short of astonishing."

As Farhad Manjoo notes in his Salon.com post:

According to the paper, Paul Craft, a technologist at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who'd been leading the effort to create the purge list, told the governor's office in early May that he wasn't "comfortable" with the method by which the state's software matched names on a list of known felons to a list of people registered to vote. According to an e-mail obtained by the Herald-Tribune through a public records request, though, Jeb Bush rejected Craft's call to scrap the list. "Needless to say, Paul's going NUTS!" the e-mail notes. (Here's a PDF of the e-mail.)

2. Attempt to further suppress ex-felon voter registration by eliminating paper applications for felons seeking to recover their civil rights

Via David Sirota, here is an article in the Miami Herald (posted at Truthout) (bold text - except headers- is eRiposte emphasis):

Gov. Jeb Bush has decided to eliminate paper applications for felons seeking to recover their civil rights, and attorneys assert that the move will thwart thousands of potential voters.

    Days after a Florida appeals court demanded that the state provide more help to felons who want their right to vote restored, Gov. Jeb Bush introduced a new policy that civil rights advocates say circumvents the will of the court and threatens to exclude tens of thousands of potential voters.

    Last week, the First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee unanimously ruled that state prison officials must follow the law and provide newly released felons the necessary paperwork and assistance to get their full civil rights back.

    That would include a one-page application for a formal hearing before the Florida Clemency Board - the only way an estimated 85 percent of felons will ever get their rights restored.

    But instead of providing the application, Bush decided to scrap it altogether. On Wednesday, he announced that felons will now have to contact the Office of Executive Clemency when and if they want to apply for a hearing to have their rights restored.

    Bush argues that the policy reduces paperwork and, therefore, provides the ease and assistance demanded by the court.

    Civil rights advocates say the decision will disfranchise thousands of people in a state where more than 400,000 are already banned from voting.

    Groups including the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute sued the state in 2001, saying the Department of Corrections for years violated the law by not helping felons to make civil rights applications. The Department has made changes since then but still refuses to provide to outgoing inmates the one-page application needed for a hearing.

    Civil rights groups took the state to court to change the policy. Last week, they declared victory. On Wednesday, they cried foul.

    'Clever Tactic'
    "You have to hand it to the governor. It's a very clever legal tactic and even more clever propaganda," said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU in Florida. ''It's done under the guise of trying to simplify the process and eliminate paperwork, but it just shows his true character. It's completely disingenuous."

    Bush's Rationale
    Bush and his staff, however, say eliminating the application and requesting that felons call to request hearings simplifies the state's clemency system and ensures that the agencies overseeing the process won't be bogged down by paperwork.

    "The bottom line is, this will streamline the process," said the governor's spokesman, Jacob DiPietre. ''Once felons are notified that they don't qualify for restoration without a hearing, all they have to do is pick up the phone and call, send a letter or e-mail a request for a hearing."

    Florida is one of just six states that permanently strip felons of the right to vote. The Florida Clemency Board - composed of the governor and the Cabinet - can reinstate a felon's right to vote.

    There are two ways for ex-felons to get their rights restored. Depending on their past crimes and other factors, they may qualify for restoration through a paperless process without a hearing. Those rejected from that process must go through a more complicated investigation and hearing before the governor and his Cabinet.

    State's Argument
    The state had argued that the Department of Corrections fulfilled its legal obligation by electronically submitting the names of newly released felons for consideration in the paperless process.

    But civil rights advocates countered that the Department didn't go far enough, because an overwhelming majority of felons are rejected from that process. To get their rights back, they must apply for hearings.

    Bush, however, has repeatedly refused to provide the one-page application to felons before they leave custody.

    Randall Berg, executive director of the Florida Justice Institute, argued that if an application for a hearing was already on file, more people would be ready and waiting for consideration.

    "I think the governor thumbed his nose at the court order and showed disrespect for the rule of law," he said.

3. Intimidation of Democratic voters and Kerry supporters using State Law Enforcement

Via Digby, here's Andrew Gumbel reporting in The Independent (U.K.) (bold text is my emphasis):

But the 73-year-old Mr Thomas, an affable ladies' man, is staying out of public view for fear of exacerbating what is already a highly controversial - and highly political - criminal investigation of his election-related activities.

A similarly low profile is being taken by Steve Clelland, the head of the local firefighters' union. Last week, he did not even dare attend a local appearance by John Kerry, the candidate he is supporting for President, in case it added to the legal troubles facing his own organization. The firefighters are also subject to a criminal investigation, the chief allegation - for which no evidence has been produced - being that they colluded with City Hall to set up an illegal slush fund for political campaigning.

What makes the troubles facing the two men particularly sinister is that they are declared Kerry supporters, with the power to bring in hundreds if not thousands of votes for the Democratic Party. The investigations are being conducted by the state police, known as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), which reports directly to Governor Jeb Bush, brother of President George Bush.

The Republicans, naturally, deny the investigations are politically motivated. But even they acknowledge that a chill has spread through Orlando's overwhelmingly Democratic black voting community after a flurry of unannounced visits by armed state police to at least 52 homes whose mostly elderly residents had signed up for an absentee ballot with Mr Thomas's help.

The Republicans have been hard put to explain what exactly the two men have done wrong. The media has aired official allegations ranging from vote fraud to campaign finance irregularities to racketeering, but no charges have been brought, despite exhaustive investigations. A grand jury examining allegations concerning the firefighters' union concluded that no laws had been broken, which has not deterred the FDLE from pursuing the case.

It is impossible to understand what is going on without considering the broader political picture. Orlando is slap-bang in the middle of the so-called "I-4 corridor", the line of Florida cities running along Interstate Highway 4 from Daytona Beach on the Atlantic coast to Tampa Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. The I-4 corridor is regarded as the hinge on which the outcome of the presidential election in Florida will swing, and Orlando - with surrounding Orange County - is considered the corridor's bellwether city.

So this is the key swing city in the key swing region of the key swing state that will determine whether or not George Bush wins another four years in the White House. Little wonder passions are getting heated. Given the unholy electoral mess Florida produced in 2000, and given the state's sordid history of vote fraud and systematic disenfranchisement, especially of black voters, both parties find themselves voicing the suspicion that the other side will try to steal Florida if only they can figure out how. "It's a blood sport," said Joe Egan, a prominent Orlando lawyer who represents both Mr Thomas and the firefighters.

One added wrinkle is that Orlando's mayor, Buddy Dyer, is one of only two prominent Democratic public officials along the I-4 corridor. Clearly, if he is discredited, the Democrats will be deprived of a vital figurehead in the run-up to 2 November. As it turns out, he is directly implicated in both of the FDLE's investigations. The intrigue began with Mr Dyer's election last March. It was a two-round election, but Mr Dyer finished with just over the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a run-off. His closest opponent, a Republican called Ken Mulvaney, cried foul, saying the 234-vote margin putting Mr Dyer over the threshold was fraudulent.

Since Mr Mulvaney's campaign manager was a prominent local talk-radio host called Doug Guetzloe, his allegations had a wide airing. But most of them, if not all, were demonstrably untrue. Mr Guetzloe claimed illegal absentee votes had been faxed into the elections supervisor's office, but the office accepts only originals. He also said people had been paid for their votes, but offered no evidence of this.

The greatest suspicion fell on Ezzie Thomas, because he had personally witnessed applications for 270 absentee ballots, a figure big enough to force a run-off election if it could be shown the votes were fraudulent. The city attorney's office cross-checked the signatures on the absentee ballots with the original application forms and concluded they were valid. Intriguingly, the FDLE did the same thing and stated, in a letter written to the state attorney in Orlando in May, that there was "no basis to support the allegations" and that the case should be considered closed.

"They've been trying to explain away that letter ever since," said one senior city employee who did not wish to be identified. Something caused the FDLE to change its mind, because in early June uniformed officers began knocking on doors and asking threatening questions of dozens of black voters who had been in contact with Mr Thomas. Several said the FDLE officers took off their jackets and exposed their firearms while questioning them. In at least one case, the officer crossed his legs and tapped a 9mm pistol sitting in an ankle holster while he asked detailed questions about the interviewee's reasons for voting absentee. (Absentee voting is a choice under Florida law, so one can wonder about the line of questioning.)

"I felt threatened, embarrassed and like I was being accused of being a criminal," one interviewee, Willie Thomas, wrote in a statement. Many others told Joe Egan later that they no longer wanted to vote absentee because they felt it was somehow illegal.

Although the FDLE's public statements have been less than transparent, it appears to have relied on a paragraph in the Florida statute books which says it is illegal to receive or offer "something of value" for absentee ballots. Mr Thomas and his organization, the Orlando Voters' League, have not been accused of paying for votes, but they have acknowledged paying the 37-cent postage for some people's absentee ballots. Mr Thomas, who received $10,000 from the Dyer campaign for his get-out-the-vote efforts, has also acknowledged paying his volunteers between $100 and $150 for petrol and other expenses over the campaign season.

The allegations seem particularly absurd because such practices are absolutely par for the course for both parties. "A 37-cent postage stamp is a very interesting definition of racketeering," Mr Egan said. "Now, it's well known that most absentee ballots come out of the white community ... I seriously doubt the police would behave in the same way in a white community."

As it happens, Mr Thomas had been been hired before by Republican candidates to perform exactly the same services he provided for Mr Dyer, without falling foul of the law. Among his past clients are two names with particular resonance in the 2004 presidential race. One is Mel Martinez, the Bush administration's outgoing Housing Secretary who is now running for the Florida Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Democrat, Bob Graham. (Mr Thomas helped Mr Martinez run for chair of the Orange County commission a few years ago.) And the other is Glenda Hood, who was mayor of Orlando for 12 years before being appointed Jeb Bush's Secretary of State, the office responsible for running Florida's elections.

And Mayor Hood, not Mayor Dyer, allowed the firefighters' union to spend up to $40,000 a year in city funds on political activities. In those days, the firefighters were considered allies of the Republican establishment in Orange County and had endorsed George Bush for President in 2000. But Mr Clelland and his members were deeply disappointed by the White House's failure to follow through on promises to put an extra 100,000 firefighters on American streets and update their equipment. So, in early June, they joined a statewide union vote endorsing Mr Kerry for President in 2004.

Days later, the FDLE, with television cameras in tow, raided City Hall, seized several computers and announced that the union and its so-called "leave bank" were being investigated. The beefy Mr Clelland said he was scared to death in his interview with the FDLE supervisor in Orlando and was told he might be slung into jail if he insisted on having his lawyer present. He duly asked Mr Egan to leave the room.

Like the black absentee voters, Mr Clelland also noticed the officer tapping the 9mm pistol in his ankle holster as he let loose his barrage of questions. "You would think these investigators were going after John Gotti [the late Mafia don]," he said bitterly. "Their actions have gutted this organization locally." After the grand jury ruled that the union leave bank was legal, Mayor Dyer asked Florida's attorney general for a ruling to get the FDLE off their backs.

Lean Left has extracts from Bob Herbert's New York Times op-ed addressing these blatant voter intimidation tactics.

4. Attempt to suppress voting of new citizens (immigrants) by claiming that they didn't check a box! (It's not enough to swear or affirm otherwise that one is a U.S. citizen - one needs to have ticked a box in the voter registration form in certain counties or face disqualification from voting!)
- even when forms were fixed, they did not get processed on time

Here's Norwood at DailyKos

SP Times:

It's not enough for new Florida voters to swear an oath that they are U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Glenda Hood says.

They also have to make sure they check a little box on their voter registration form.

Otherwise, they should be barred from voting Nov. 2, Hood says.

The result: Potentially hundreds of Floridians won't be able to vote because they failed to check the box even though they signed the form.

Hood's strict interpretation of state law drew the ire Monday of Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's Florida campaign chairman and third-party groups that have registered thousands of voters in Florida.

"This is really in my opinion a technicality," said U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami, Kerry's Florida campaign chairman. "If you sign the form, under the threat of prosecution if you lie, that should be good enough to allow them to vote."

Meek stopped short of accusing Hood, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, of playing partisan politics.

"But this is the very same office that went out of its way to make sure Ralph Nader was on the ballot," Meek said. Democrats, who fear Nader will undermine Kerry's chances of winning, sued unsuccessfully last month to keep him off the ballot.

Hood said last week that thousands of people could be turned away from the polls Nov. 2 because their voter registration cards were rejected for technical reasons. Most registered through third-party groups that are not as careful as elections officials, Hood said.

But the head of one of those groups said Hood should err on the side of voters.

"All things being equal the secretary of state should be moving mountains to let people vote," said Brian Kettenring, head organizer for Florida ACORN, or Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which announced Monday it had 212,317 new voters in Florida. "We believe the secretary of state should be giving voters every benefit of the doubt."

More, from Herald.com:

Broward County residents who skipped over a box on their voter registration form will be barred from voting in the presidential election, while Miami-Dade residents who made the same omission will be allowed to cast ballots.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood, who oversees elections statewide, said Monday that Broward was following her instructions in disqualifying those who failed to complete the form.

But she indicated that there was no way to force Dade to follow the same procedure. And Dade said it was sticking to its plan of not disqualifying voters for skipping the citizenship box if they affirmed elsewhere with their signatures that they are U.S. citizens.

So, is Jeb! appointee Buddy Johnson gonna reject forms from Hillsborough County residents based on a technicality?  Well, so far, he's only been able to find one form on which the only mistake made was the citizenship box, and he rejected it.  He's gleefully rejecting thousands of other forms for multiple little mistakes and other irregularities. (Back to SP Times)

Hillsborough Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson said only one form was rejected because the citizenship box wasn't checked.

More than 6,600 other forms were rejected for a variety of reasons.

"It's very, very, very rare that that particular field is the only incomplete field," Johnson said.

And as these dedicated GOP public servants work to maintain the integrity of the election by disenfranchising thousands of hopeful first time voters, let's not forget that sometimes it's okay to fix an official election form - at least, it's okay if you're a Republican.

the Martin County absentee ballot case. In that lawsuit, local Democrats have been arguing that because Republican election officials allowed GOP volunteers to take home incomplete absentee ballot applications and correct them, every absentee ballot cast in that county was compromised. Their preferred solution is to throw out all of the approximately 10,000 absentee votes, which would give Gore a net gain of more than 2,000 votes.

Final arguments will be heard Thursday at 1 p.m. EST in the Seminole County case, a precursor to the Martin County suit. Hanging in the balance are that county's 15,000 absentee votes. Democrats allege that county election supervisor Sandra Goard illegally allowed Republicans to set up shop in her office and fix thousands of absentee ballot requests from Republicans.

In one of Wednesday's most charged moments, Democratic attorneys read aloud testimony from Goard, who has held the supervisor post in Seminole County for 23 years. She admitted to permitting two Republican Party representatives, including the party's regional director, Michael Leach, to add missing voter identification numbers to about 2,000 absentee ballot applications filed by Republican voters. Goard also acknowledged that Florida law did not permit her to take such an action and that she had not provided Democrats with the same opportunity.

Glenda E. Hood
Secretary of State
Florida Department of State
R. A. Gray Building
500 S. Bronough
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0250
Phone:850-245-6500

Contact individual county Supervisors of Elections and ask them if they plan to follow Glenda Hood's advice to disenfranchise new voters.

Via The Progress Report, here's an update from the San Francisco Chronicle:

The lawsuit regarding voter registration forms, filed in federal court in Miami, stems from Hood's recent recommendation to throw out forms on which registrants did not check a box indicating they are U.S. citizens, even if they signed an oath at the bottom of the form swearing that they are.

It charges that while some registrants fixed their incomplete forms before the Oct. 4 deadline, elections officials did not always process them in time and did not let other registrants know their forms were flawed. It charges Hood and elections supervisors in Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade and Orange counties with violating federal election law and the Voting Rights Act.

The plaintiff groups -- including People for the American Way; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; and the AFL-CIO -- all registered thousands of new Florida voters in recent months, often urging them to vote Democratic.

According to their complaint, more than a third of the incomplete forms in Broward and Miami-Dade counties came from African American registrants, even though African Americans make up only 17 percent of the electorate in Broward and 20 percent in Miami-Dade.

UPDATE 10/28/04

Via reader radtimes, a Federal judge atrociously allowed the disenfranchisement:

A federal district judge here dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday that was filed on behalf of more than 10,000 new voters whose registration forms had been rejected as incomplete.

The judge, James Lawrence King, said the labor unions that brought the case had no standing because they had not proved that any of their members were affected. Judge King also said several other plaintiffs, people who had turned in incomplete registration forms, could not blame their local elections supervisors, who were named as defendants.

"No federal or state statute,'' he wrote, "prescribes a time period within which a supervisor must notify an applicant that her application is incomplete.''

Sheila Thomas, a lawyer for the Advancement Project, a rights group that represented the plaintiffs, said, "We think the ruling is incorrect as a matter of law, and we are considering appealing it."

The suit, brought against elections supervisors in Broward, Miami-Dade and several other counties, charged that the rejected registration forms had come disproportionately from blacks and Hispanics. In some cases, the applicants did not check a box indicating that they were American citizens, though they signed an oath on the form affirming that they were. Some registrants corrected their incomplete forms before the Oct. 4 registration deadline, the suit said, but elections officials did not always process them in time, and did not let other registrants know that their forms were flawed.

 

UPDATED 10/17/04

5. Florida's GOP Secretary of State Glenda Hood (nickname: Katharine Harris II) issues election rules barring manual recounts (via machine log printouts) for electronic voting machines in close elections, even though Florida law requires a manual recount of ballots in close elections
- after a court order against her stance, she issues new ruling which is barely different from her original ruling 

Here's Farhad Manjoo in Salon.com [via reader CC] - with bold text being my emphasis:

Many of the improvements in Florida, as in the rest of the nation, were cosmetic; lawmakers moved quickly to make changes, but their reforms were often quick fixes. In Florida, where the election mess had been blamed on punch-card voting machines, officials looked for a technological solution to the state's democratic woes. In 2001, lawmakers here banned punch-card voting machines. Many local officials then had a choice to make -- should they go with optical scan ballots (the fill-in-the-bubble paper ballots that are counted by machines), or should they install paperless electronic touch-screen machines? Officials in smaller counties chose optical scan, while most of the larger counties chose the electronic systems. In the upcoming election, slightly more than half of Florida's voters will find touch-screen machines at the polls, while the rest will vote on opti-scan.

It wasn't long after the state adopted touch-screen systems that the machines proved to be just as troublesome as punch cards. On Sept. 10, 2002, Miami-Dade County, the state's largest, used electronic machines for the first time in its primary election. Election Day was a disaster, mostly because the voting systems, made by Election Systems & Software of Omaha, Neb., failed to start up on time, resulting in delays of several hours before some precincts were opened for voting. The main contest in the race pitted Janet Reno, the former U.S. attorney general, against Bill McBride for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. The initial count showed Reno losing by more than 8,000 votes -- but as officials checked and rechecked the machines over a process of weeks, they "found" thousands of additional votes for Reno. Eventually, Reno's margin of defeat was determined to be within the legal limit allowing her to challenge the results -- but by the time all the votes were found, she'd missed the deadline to challenge.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 10 fiasco in Miami-Dade, voting-rights activists from all over the county got together to form the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. Amidst all the turmoil in this state, the group is the best example of public democracy Florida has to offer -- a rebellious, fearless and fiercely nonpartisan citizens' group that aims to bring accuracy, if not honor, back to Florida elections. Every Wednesday evening for the past two years, the group, composed of two dozen or so lawyers, civil rights experts, poll workers, labor leaders and ordinary citizens, has met in a dreary third-floor conference room at the Florida ACLU. Their meetings are intense, sometimes fractious, but also, surprisingly, a lot of fun. In the middle of an intricate discussion on the complexities of election law at one recent get-together, giggles broke out when someone sketched a sign on a yellow legal pad and held it up for the room to see. The solution to Florida's election woes? "GLENDA MUST GO!" the sign said.

Voting rights activists in Florida responded to the Sept. 10 primary by calling for what they said were practical fixes to the problems they saw with touch screens. Specifically, members of the coalition asked Hood to consider a "manual recount" procedure for touch-screen systems. Most touch-screen machines produce elaborate internal logs documenting everything that happens to that machine in the course of a day of voting -- the time it was turned on and off, the mode it was in during the election, the number of voters who used the machine, and possibly much more information, including printouts of each ballot cast. Voting machine firms have always touted these internal logs as a security feature. So in the event of a question over an electronic machine's results, reformers asked, why couldn't election officials look at the system's internal logs to determine if the machine functioned correctly during the race?

Examining machine logs would seem to be a sensible safeguard against election mischief -- but for reasons that remain unclear, Hood decided that officials should never consult these internal logs. To carry out her edict, she called on the Florida Legislature to pass a law that would have prohibited manual recounts on touch-screen machines. In response, the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition mounted a campaign to defeat the bill, and after a groundswell of public support, the bill failed. But in April, after the legislative defeat, Hood quietly issued an administrative election rule -- which did not need to be approved by the Legislature -- to achieve exactly what the defeated bill would have achieved, the prohibition of manual recounts on voting machines.

To her critics, Hood's actions on the manual recount issue epitomize her general attitude toward election law; she rules high-handedly, they say, without regard for public sentiment. In 2000 and in 2002, Florida experienced massive election failures; clearly, these events would have caused voters to lose confidence in Florida's election plan. But Hood failed to grasp this "post-Nov. 7" public mood, the need for greater trust in the voting equipment, says Martha Mahoney, a professor at the University of Miami School of Law and a member of the Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition. Instead of moving to reassure voters by mandating closer study of touch-screen systems, Hood moved to limit the ways in which elections officials could scrutinize election results.

Indeed, despite a couple of years' worth of examples from around the country showing that touch-screen systems are just as fallible as other bits of modern technology (including the example of Florida's 2002 primary), Hood has bizarrely maintained that the voting systems in Florida are flawless. "The track record shows that since 2002, when electronic voting equipment's been used in Florida, that we've delivered successful elections," she told CNN recently. "There have not been problems with the equipment that's been used." Jeb Bush, too, claims that the election equipment in the state is perfect. Jacob DiPietre, a spokesman for Bush, told Salon that the chaos that Miami-Dade experienced in 2002 was the result of "human error" -- the election problems were caused by poll workers, not by machines. This theory is contradicted by independent reports of what occurred in that election. For instance, the Miami-Dade County Inspector General has documented (PDF) the many and various ways in which the ES&S systems failed in the 2002 primary, noting in particular the systems' inability to start up on time.

Despite this evidence, Bush maintains that the only people who question Florida's voting machines are Democrats, and they only do it to boost voter turnout. "Every time that liberal Democrats say that the election is in question, every vote should count, it is an effort to try to mobilize their base and that's it," Bush told the Miami Herald in July. "And it should be discounted, deeply, because it is purely politics." Martha Mahoney, though, points out that there are many Republicans who favor stricter scrutiny of electronic machines; counting every vote is not a dream only of Democrats. In fact, the Know Your Vote Counts Act of 2004, a proposal in the U.S. House to require voter-verifiable paper trails in electronic voting systems, counts among its co-sponsors dozens of Republicans, including five from Florida. One of them is Katharine Harris, the Bushes' former vote-counting consigliere, who was elected to Congress in 2002. In supporting a paper trail in voting machines, is Harris trying, as Bush suggests, to mobilize Democrats? That's hard to believe.

After Hood issued her rule prohibiting recounts in electronic machines, the Florida chapter of the ACLU sued her, challenging her authority to issue such an order. Hood lost the suit, and was forced to rewrite the rule; now, a revised rule governing recounts on electronic machines could come down from Hood's office anytime before Election Day. Activists aren't sure, though, that the new rule will be any more fair than the rule Hood first devised -- still, says Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, it's better for activists to be waiting for a possibly unfair rule before the election than to find out about unfair rules on the day of the election, which is what occurred in 2000. That's the main difference, he says, between this presidential election and the last one -- voting-rights advocates are prepared this time. "We've been working up to our eyeballs on preventive action," he says. "We're in a battle over the rules of the game. The game is going to be decided by who makes the rules of the game -- who decides who gets purged, who's permitted to register, whether the machines are going to be audited and reliable, will they have the capacity to do a recount in case a recount is necessary, are the votes going to be counted or thrown out."

Uggabugga has an update on the "new" ruling:

From a news story about Florida voting procedures:
State law requires a manual recount if the election is decided by less than one-quarter of 1 percent of the vote, as it was in the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.

Secretary of State Glenda Hood had issued a rule barring manual recounts for touch-screen votes, but a judge in August ruled the manual-recount law applies no matter what voting technology is used.

Hood's office released the new recount rules late Friday, 18 days before the Nov. 2 presidential election.
What are the rules? Read on: (emp add)
Under the new rules, if a recount is needed, election officials must review a printout from each voting machine to count the so-called undervotes, or ballots on which no candidate was chosen. The equipment will be checked for problems if the number doesn't match the undervote totals given by the machine.

If the discrepancy remains, officials will rely on the original machine count.
So what's the point? If the paper record agrees with the machine, the machine count is used. If the paper record disagrees with the machine, the machine count is used.

Also, what's with using the undervotes as the test? Why not look at all votes reported by the machine and compare that to the paper record?

NOTE: It's not clear what the paper record is anyway. Is it a print-out from the machine when the voting is over, or is it (what it should be) a running print of voter activity that occurs when each voter uses the machine.

 

6. Jeb Bush's Government in Florida adopts an extremely rigid standard for counting provisional ballots in order to suppress voting -- a voter has to have cast his ballot at his home precinct in order to have his provisional ballot counted.

Here's Farhad Manjoo in Salon.com [via reader CC] - with bold text being my emphasis:

Another legal challenge has to do with "provisional ballots," which are the ballots voters are allowed to cast in case their names can't be found on the rolls at their polling place on Election Day. Provisional ballots, which were required by the Help America Vote Act, the federal election reform law that President Bush signed in 2002, are meant to alleviate one of the most common problems elections experts see in voting, voters being turned away due to faulty registration rolls. Now, when a poll worker can't find a voter's name in the registration database on Election Day, the voter can cast a ballot provisionally; the state determines later whether to count the ballot. But Florida, unlike most states, has adopted an extremely rigid standard in deciding whether to count a provisional ballot -- a voter has to have cast his ballot at his home precinct in order to have his provisional ballot counted. Simon, of the ACLU, points out that this will cause many votes to go uncounted this year; going to the wrong precinct could be a fairly common mistake voters make. "Miami-Dade alone has added 130 new precincts, and what if you didn't get your card in the mail that told you where to go?" he asks. "Or what if you live in the part of the state that's been hit by hurricanes, and they moved your polling place or it had to be replaced at the last minute?" Just because you go to the wrong precinct, Simons asks, why should your vote for president or senator not be counted? But in Florida, these ballots won't count. In August's primary election, about 2,000 voters cast provisional ballots, and only half of them were counted, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

The outcome of these lawsuits will likely determine the rules of the Florida election game. And if Glenda Hood wins, many Democrats in the state fear, the outcome of the presidential election in Florida could be certain from the start.

As of 10/18/04, unfortunately the State Supreme Court sides with the Bush government:

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- People who cast a provisional ballot at the wrong precinct aren't entitled to have their votes counted, the state Supreme Court unanimously ruled Monday, rejecting an argument by labor unions that the rule wrongly disenfranchises voters.

The court said the law clearly states that provisional ballots must be counted only if the person was entitled to vote "at the precinct," and that the constitution gives the Legislature the authority to dictate voting rules.

UPDATE 10/30/04

More here (via reader radtimes).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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