The following two columns appeared as op-ed pieces in the Orlando Sentinel this past Friday. It shows that Republicans (and Florida’s Secretary of State is a Republican) are up to no good — again! Record numbers of new voters have registered hoping to participate in the November 4 presidential election — probably the most important in our lifetime. Of those registered a very large group are new U.S. citizens, many Latinos and persons who derive from Caribbean islands, and African Americans who want to deposit their vote with the first African American presidential candidate with a legitimate shot at winning the highest elective office in the country. There are those who fear this possibility.
May I remind you of the problems that developed in 2000 when studies have shown that election WAS stolen in Florida. Behind it all was a Bush in the governor’s office (no longer the case, although we have one in the White House) and a sneaky secretary of state who managed to arrange to have thousand of eligible voters disenfranchised. May history NOT repeat itself…
Alvaro F. Fernandez
REMOVE THE VOTING BARRIER
Alvaro F. Fernandez | Special to the Sentinel
September 26, 2008
On Election Day, Floridians may again see a mishandled election that unfairly disenfranchises eligible voters. To avoid this, I call on Secretary of State Kurt Browning to suspend enforcement of the “no match, no vote” voter verification statute. He can and should delay enforcing this burdensome and unnecessary law.
This law prevents newly-registered voters from voting by regular ballot if the state doesn’t verify their drivers license or Social Security number by matching it with a state or federal database — even when the source of the problem is a clerical error or typographical error.
County officials must notify unmatched applicants who, to be added to the voter rolls, must provide a copy of their drivers license or Social Security card. If applicants don’t receive or understand that notice and appear at the polls on Election Day, they get a provisional ballot — which won’t count unless they give officials a copy of their valid identification card within 48 hours.
The requirement places unnecessary obstacles in the paths of people who are energized by the upcoming election and excited to vote for the first time — and disenfranchises voters unless they correct clerical errors made by the government.
Before the presidential primary, 16,000 citizens were blocked from the voter rolls by the law. It disproportionately impacts voters of color who have nontraditional names, including Latino voters who use two surnames, thus increasing the likelihood of clerical errors. In 2006 and 2007, 65 percent of the unmatched applicants were either Latino or African American. Latinos comprised only 15 percent of the applicant pool, but a whopping 39 percent of them were prevented from registering. African Americans comprised only 13 percent of the applicant pool, yet 26 percent of them were kept from the rolls.
Browning says this law is necessary to prevent fraudulent voters from registering — despite scant evidence of voter-registration fraud in Florida. And while election officials must verify voters’ identities — that is, make sure voters are who they say they are — this law does not accomplish that purpose. Indeed, voters who verify their identities by showing poll workers their drivers licenses, U.S. passports or military identifications will have their votes go uncounted if they do not give election officials an extra copy of an ID card in the two days after the election.
Last year, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project and other groups challenged the law in federal court, and the court blocked enforcement of the law for the presidential primary. That ruling was reversed on appeal, but the lawsuit continues, and there hasn’t yet been a final ruling. This makes all the more puzzling Browning’s announcement that he would abruptly begin enforcing the burdensome law just weeks before the registration deadline.
Browning should not put Florida’s voters at risk. The Division of Elections is already overwhelmed trying to process a backlog of thousands of new applications. Forcing officials to contend with an unnecessary matching law when they’re already inundated makes no sense — especially because the law won’t stop any voter fraud and will stop thousands of citizens from having their ballots counted on Election Day.
Alvaro F. Fernandez is a regional director of the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, a plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the voter verification law.
EVEN THE UNVERIFIED CAN VOTE
Kurt S. Browning | Special to the Sentinel
September 26, 2008
There have been many misstatements and confusion over the recent implementation of the voter verification law, otherwise known as the “no match, no vote” law originally passed in 2006. The Division of Elections’ mission along with local supervisors of elections is to register voters and to make sure they can cast a ballot on Election Day that will be counted.
And just to clarify, this law will not affect the status of the 10.7 million voters who have already registered. The law applies to all new applications received on or after Sept. 8.
Unlike what activists are saying, obvious errors including nicknames or typos will be resolved, and that applicant will be registered to vote. Every voter-registration applicant must provide (if issued) a Florida drivers-license number, state identification card number or the last four digits of the Social Security number. The identification number is automatically cross-checked against the Florida drivers-license database or the Social Security Administration database. If that number does not match, the Bureau of Voter Registration Services manually reviews it for identifiable typographical errors or a difference between a nickname and formal name based on available records and the voter-registration application.
If the number still cannot be matched, the applicant is notified to provide a photocopy of his or her identification by mail, by fax or by e-mail; or the applicant may show the identification in person. If proof is provided before the election, the applicant becomes registered and is able to vote a regular ballot. If proof is not provided before the election, this person may vote a provisional ballot and may provide proof up until 5 p.m. of the second day after the election for the ballot to be counted.
This law does not keep any person with an unverified number from being able to vote. This law is about verifying identity at the time of registration, so that when the voter goes to the polls, the voter can use a regular ballot, not a provisional ballot.
Identification required and checked at the polls is used solely to confirm the voter’s identity, not to verify the voter’s ID number or address. The photograph on the ID is compared with the person standing before the poll worker, and the signature on the ID is compared with the signature on record.
This law does not target specific groups. The U.S. Department of Justice reviewed the law in 2005, and after revisions to the law in 2007 and 2008, found that the law did not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race, color or membership in a language minority group.
The courts have held that the voter verification law is valid because the state has a compelling interest to have accurate voter rolls. We encourage you to register now, review your application before submission, and call your local supervisor if you have any questions.
See you on Election Day.
Kurt S. Browning is Florida’s secretary of state.