You’re a Florida resident. You want to do your civic duty, and vote in the upcoming 2008 election. You fill out your voter registration form promptly and correctly, and turn it in. You’re not a convicted felon, and you’ve lived at the same address in Florida for 20 years — no residency problems.
But, the data entry clerk who entered your name into the voter registration roles made an error, and you were entered as Jon Smith, rather than John Smith. Oh heavens, mistakes are made sometimes, and they’re easily fixed. Right?
Wrong. If this error is discovered when you arrive to vote on November 4 — YOU WILL NOT BE VOTING.
At issue is Florida’s so-called “no-match, no-vote” law, which allows county officials to reject new voter registration applications if the names on the forms do not match other state databases. Voter advocacy groups sued the state, claiming that database errors can cause applications to be rejected – through no fault of would-be voters.
This week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida sided with the state, saying it has the right to reject voter applications if they didn’t match an applicant’s Florida driver’s license or the last four digits of their social security number. The state had been sued by a coalition of voting rights groups after election officials rejected applications from 14,000 African-American Floridians dating back to 2006.
That’s right, boys and girls. Shades of election year 2000. Who needs Katharine Harris, when you have the U.S. District Court in Florida?
Well, you think, I’ll just take my ID to the polls with me — just in case.
“The most senseless part is that the state creates these errors, and then makes it unnecessarily hard to fix the problem,” said Elizabeth Westfall of Advancement Project, another attorney for the plaintiffs. “You can’t show a passport. You can’t show a military ID. And though you can show your driver’s license itself, it doesn’t count if you show it at the polls – the very place where voters have to show a photo ID anyway.”
You cannot fix this at the polls, and you can’t even fix it in the weeks leading up to the election. Florida has rules against that sort of thing. They do not have the staff to check all the voter records, and if they happen to find a mistake, you will not be notified. SOL, ladies and gentlemen.
Still, voter advocates hope local Florida election officials will use their discretion to help all voters this fall.
“At the very least, the counties can and should help avoid the chaos that this law creates by making it possible to fix the problem at the polls,” said Brian Mellor, attorney for Project Vote, another plaintiff in the suit. “We hope that the (county) Supervisors of Elections use the discretionary power they have to allow corrections at the polls so that voters are inconvenienced as little as possible.”
Maybe someone will write a sternly worded letter….