10/2/08

Florida remains vulnerable to voter fraud

More ACORN stories: hereVoter-fraud stories: here

ACORN criticizes attempt at accountability

Gov. Charlie Crist has a message for any new voter worried about running afoul of Florida's new and controversial ''no-match'' law: Open your mail.

Under the new law, voters who registered after Sept. 8 -- but whose names don't match the state's Social Security or driver's license databases -- are notified by mail to fix the problem or face casting a provisional ballot on Election Day.

''If you're responsible enough to vote, you ought to be responsible enough to open your mail and pay your bills and do the kind of things that good citizens do,'' Crist said Tuesday amid protests from voter groups.

Crist said he was confident the new law was fair and should remain in effect -- rebuffing the demands from a handful of get-out-the-vote groups who held statewide press conferences urging him to suspend the law, which was unsuccessfully challenged in court.

Opponents of the no-match law say it needlessly erects hurdles for new voters. A working person might misplace mail with the no-match notice, they say, or have trouble making sure the provisional ballot counts Election Day if the problem isn't smoothed out.

For a provisional ballot to count, a no-match voter would have to cast that ballot at their precinct and then make sure elections officials receive a copy of their driver's license or Social Security card by the Thursday after Election Day. As of Monday, about 5,324 no-match registrants statewide had yet to respond to county mailers to clear up their issue.

Since Sept. 8, 131,540 people have registered to vote. Of those, 20,355 showed up as a no-match during a computer database query. But state officials manually checked names, addresses and signatures and determined that 13,042 registrants showed up as a no-match due to data-entry typos or misprints. Counties verified nearly 2,000 more.

But in a state where the 2000 presidential race was decided by 537 votes, new voters like Francisco Orellana said they're concerned that the no-match law could have an outsized effect.

''A lot of us are a bit intimidated,'' said Orellana, a 19-year-old Miami Dade College student. ``We want our voice to be heard on the different issues.''

Orellana registered after Sept. 8 and didn't run afoul of the new law. But he and others at a Miami-Dade County Hall press conference fretted that minority voters and immigrants -- especially those with tough-to-spell last names -- could encounter needless trouble.

The press conference was organized by several organizations, including the Southwest Voters Registration Project, the Association for Community Reform Now (ACORN), the Florida Immigrant Coalition and the Service Employees International Union. They're planning to bombard Tallahassee with petitions calling for the law's suspension.

ACORN's Florida director, Brian Kettenring, said there's a fine line between making sure voters are informed of the new law but not scared from polls.

''We can't let voter suppression take place,'' he said, ``but we can't allow our work to stop suppression have an unintended consequence.''

Crist said he had little power to suspend a law that he signed, and that he nevertheless had ''enormous confidence'' in the elections system.

Asked if he were 100 percent sure, Crist responded: ``I'm not 100 percent sure of anything, nor would I ever make that kind of assertion.''

(miamiherald.com)

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