A list of would-be felons was tossed out last week after officials conceded it had too many errors and they could not justify purging the 47,763 names on the list from Florida’s voting rolls. Since a similar list led to much controversy in the close presidential election in 2000, this was a wise decision. Yet, other problems remain that could lead to even more controversy in the upcoming election.
Florida, only one of a few states in the United States to practice such a rule, does not automatically reinstate the voting rights of convicts after they have completed their terms in prison. The citizens rather have to petition to have their rights reinstated and in the past this has led to mistakes. In 2000 a Texas company was hired to purge names of convicts from voting lists. Thousands of eligible voters were purged by mistake. As the final result of the election (still contested to this day) was 537 more votes for George W. Bush than for Al Gore, these voters could easily have tipped the balance.
Some have raised concerns that the actions in 2000 spearheaded by former Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, a Republican, were designed intentionally to purge Democrats from the list.
This time around, the list consisted of 28,025 Democrats, 9,521 Republicans and 1,038 Independents, according to the Sun Sentinel. Cries of criticism that there is political motivation behind the list are already being heard. Why could something like this happen, especially in a state where officials had to know the press, not to mention the public, would look closely at such a decision?
A related topic that is drawing no less criticism is the new voting machines to be deployed in most counties around the state. The machines, manufactured by Diebold, do not offer a way to recount the votes if need be, or even to simply issue a receipt to voters to indicate that their votes were cast and counted correctly.
To make matters worse, Diebold is a large contributor to the Republican Party, and its CEO has famously said he will do everything in his power to “deliver” swing states such as Florida and Ohio to Bush. These are hardly acceptable circumstances for a presidential election.
Let’s not go crazy with conspiracy theories, but every U.S voter has the right not only to vote, but also to be certain that his or her vote is counted correctly. While the presidential election is drawing closer by the day, this still appears not to be the case.