OCTOBER 15, 2008
The crucial swing state still haunted by the 2000 presidential election "hanging chad" debacle has allowed more than 30,000 felons, who should have been stripped of their voting rights, to remain registered for the upcoming election.
It marks yet another embarrassment in Florida’s documented history of voting gaffes, the most famous featuring multiple recounts of confusing paper ballots with “hanging chads” in the 2000 presidential election. The Supreme Court eventually stepped in to hand the presidency to George W. Bush.
In an effort to avoid a similar fiasco, the state overhauled its electoral system with high-tech electronic voting machines that have been plagued with serious problems. In fact, just months before the 2008 primaries state election officials admitted the machines used in 25 of the state’s 67 counties were seriously flawed and can be easily tampered with.
Now a newspaper’s investigation reveals that thousands of felons, who by law should have been stripped of their voting rights, remain registered to cast ballots. Of the felons registered with a party, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one. Nearly 5,000 have voted in past elections and about 6,000 are still in prison.
The best part is that Florida’s election chief (Secretary of State Kurt Browning) admits he has no idea how many ineligible felons may be on the state’s rolls and that he is actually shocked that the newspaper’s number is as low as it is. The secretary explained that a shortage of workers has prevented his staff from removing thousands of ineligible felons.
With the exception of Maine and Vermont, every U.S. state has a law banning felons from voting. Thirty five states prohibit felons from casting ballots while they are on parole and 30 exclude felony probationers. Since 1845 Florida law requires state and county election officials to remove felons from voter rolls after conviction. It seems that Florida’s secretary of state has little regard for the law.
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