I’m sure you have read ad nauseaum about ACORN, unless you live in the MSM abyss, but read this article and you may get a sense of what conservatives have to overcome. It should come as no surpise given democrats constant fight to supress the votes of our soldiers while trying to enfranchise felons:
South Florida Sun-Sentinel.com
Many convicted felons remain on voter rolls, according to Sun Sentinel investigation
Thousands who should be ineligible are registered to vote
Reported by Peter Franceschina, Sally Kestin, John Maines, Megan O’Matz and Dana Williams Written by Sally Kestin
October 12, 2008
More than 30,000 Florida felons who by law should have been stripped of their right to vote remain registered to cast ballots in this presidential battleground state, a Sun Sentinel investigation has found.Many are faithful voters, with at least 4,900 turning out in past elections.
Another 5,600 are not likely to vote Nov. 4 — they’re still in prison.
Of the felons who registered with a party, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one.
Florida’s elections chief, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, acknowledged his staff has failed to remove thousands of ineligible felons because of a shortage of workers and a crush of new registrations in this critical swing state.
Browning said he was not surprised by the newspaper’s findings. “I’m kind of shocked that the number is as low as it is,” he said.
Asked how many ineligible felons may be on Florida’s rolls, Browning said, “We don’t know.”
The Division of Elections has a backlog of more than 108,000 possible felons who have registered to vote since January 2006 that it hasn’t had the time or staff to verify. Browning estimated that about 10 percent, once checked, would be ineligible.
“This is part of a big mess,” said Jeff Manza, professor of sociology at New York University and author of a book on felon voting. “It’s almost certain there will be challenges if the election is close enough that things hinge on this. Both parties are armed to the teeth with legal talent in all the battleground states.”
Florida’s felon ban originated before the Civil War, and today the state remains one of 10 that restrict some felons from voting even after they’ve served their time. The law requires state and county elections officials to remove felons from voter rolls after conviction and add them only when they’ve won clemency to restore their voting rights.
In 2007, the state eased the restrictions by granting automatic clemency to most nonviolent offenders who have completed their sentences. Others, including people convicted of federal offenses, multiple felonies or crimes such as drug trafficking, murder and sex charges, must still apply for clemency and have their cases reviewed.
The felons the Sun Sentinel identified never received clemency, but their names remain on Florida’s voter rolls. Some are well-known: ex-Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne and ex-
Palm Beach County Commissioner Tony Masilotti, for instance, both convicted last year of public corruption.Browning said the state painstakingly checks all voters before removing them to avoid inadvertently taking off eligible voters as happened in two previous large-scale purge attempts.
“The policy of this department, this state, is that we will err on the side of the voter,” he said.
Florida registers voters largely on an honor system, asking applicants to affirm on a signed form that they are not convicted felons or that their rights have been restored. State law requires the Elections Division to conduct criminal records checks only after voters are added to the rolls, and it takes months or even years to remove those who are ineligible, the Sun Sentinel found.
“It’s scandalous, really,” said Lance deHaven-Smith, professor of public policy at Florida State University. “Why do they have to cull the rolls after they get registered? They shouldn’t get on the rolls in the first place.”
Several felon voters interviewed by the Sun Sentinel expressed confusion over automatic clemency and said they thought their voting rights had been restored. Some said they merely signed registration forms that were filled out by volunteers.”If I wasn’t able to vote, they wouldn’t have given me my [voter registration] card,” said John A. Henderson, 55, a Hallandale Beach Democrat. “I voted the last time and the times before that.”
Henderson served about a year in prison in the late 1990s for battery and trafficking in cocaine. He said he was unaware he needed to formally apply to restore his rights when he successfully registered to vote in 2002. Henderson has since cast ballots in at least six elections and received three updated voter ID cards from the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office, records show.
Broward elections officials were unaware of Henderson’s criminal record and did not check it when he registered, said county elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney. Nonetheless, she said he will remain on the rolls “until we are directed otherwise to remove him.”
Maintaining accurate voting rolls is up to the state Division of Elections, which has failed to effectively remove felons for years.
Most recently, in 2006, the Auditor General recommended the division conduct a “comprehensive check” of all registered voters against lists of convicted felons, a step the state still has not taken, Browning acknowledged.
In response to auditors, the division said running the search “would not be a problem,” but it lacked the manpower to verify possible matches. “Staff further stated that they were busy full-time” checking newly registered felons.
Once voters are added to the rolls, the state’s procedure for removing them is tedious and labor-intensive. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement runs daily checks of criminal records against new voters and those who have made changes to their registrations, sending possible matches to the Elections Division.
Elections staff then manually check each one, a process that involves three to five workers reviewing records, comparing driver’s license and prison photos and verifying convictions. Confirmed matches are sent to the counties for removal.
Since January 2006, more than 1.6 million new voters have registered in Florida. FDLE identified more than 124,000 possible felons.
In that time, elections workers removed about 7,200 from voter rolls statewide.
Broward County took off just 232 and Palm Beach County 31.”We do want to make sure … that we have the right voter,” Browning said.
Elections workers are now reviewing more than 3,800 possible felon voters but have more than 108,000 others still to be checked. “We’ve not touched those records yet,” Browning said.
Asked how long it will take to review them all, he said, “I don’t have a clue. I really don’t.”
John Teate, who lives west of Boca Raton, remains on the voter rolls after registering as a Democrat in July despite felony drug and theft convictions dating to the early 1990s. He said someone he thinks was a Democratic supporter signed him up while he waited for a bus at the central terminal in downtown Fort Lauderdale.”I said, ‘I’m a convicted felon. I can’t vote,'” recalled Teate, 45. “I figured when the paperwork came in, there would be a red flag.”
A spokesman for Barack Obama’s campaign said it is unlikely his volunteers signed up Teate because his name is not in a database of new voters they registered.
Teate hasn’t voted and said he doesn’t plan to.
It’s a third-degree felony for ineligible voters to knowingly cast ballots and for campaign workers and voters to submit false registration forms. Prosecutors and elections officials in South Florida could not recall any prosecutions related to felons registering or voting in recent years.
Henderson, the Hallandale Beach voter, said he does not think his criminal record should keep him from voting.
“I paid my debt,” Henderson said. “Just because I was incarcerated, that means I’m nothing now? I’m still a father. I got two kids I’m raising.”
Evan Snow, a West Palm Beach Republican, agrees. Convicted of burglary, battery and other crimes dating to the 1980s, Snow said he sought clemency several years ago but was discouraged by the lengthy process and gave up.
Snow, 46, registered to vote in June. He said he plans to cast a ballot Nov. 4 but hasn’t decided which presidential candidate to support.
“Everybody is getting interested in politics right now,” he said. “We are all here together. Shouldn’t we all be able to make a decision about who runs the place?”
To civil rights advocates, the troubled system is an argument to change the state’s constitution to automatically restore voting rights to all felons who complete their sentences.
As of mid-September, about 118,000 mostly nonviolent offenders had received automatic clemency under the 2007 change. For more than 9,700 of them, it didn’t matter — their names had never been removed from the voter rolls.
Why are more than 30,000 felons on Florida’s voter rolls?
Vote in our poll, watch a video report, sound off on our message board and use our interactive map to find the number of felon voters in your neighborhood at SunSentinel.com/felonvoters