One of the controversies surrounding the 2000 presidential election in Florida may return to the election this year. Forty thousand or more registered voters will be purged from the voting lists based on their status as felons. In 2000, this practice led to eligible citizens showing up at the voting booths only to be denied the right to cast their votes because they had been erroneously purged from the list. This time, every doubt about the voting process must be resolved before votes are cast, but so far that does not seem to be the case.
According to the St. Petersburg Times, approximately 19,300 voters were purged in 2000 based on the assumption that they were felons. Because this number included many minorities who traditionally voted Democrat, it has been argued that it was a deciding factor in that year’s historically close election.
Back then, the controversy also surrounded Katherine Harris, a Republican, who, as state secretary, was overseeing the process. Allegations of a partisan agenda were heard when it became apparent that the election result in the state of Florida would also decide the nationwide outcome and voters had been prevented from casting their votes.
It is questionable why felons who are supposedly reintegrated into society after they have paid their debt to society are stripped of the right to vote. Having to apply to have it reinstated adds insult to injury, as they are already making a difficult transition back into society’s good graces. The practice, not implemented in many states, was most recently questioned in 2002 in Tallahassee, but a court decision kept it in place.
Current polls show that a head-to-head race between incumbent President George W. Bush and presumed Democratic nominee John Kerry is likely, which means a close outcome in Florida is likely. It is imperative that no mistakes are made in this election to ensure that not only all valid votes are counted, but cast in the first place.