[Mb-civic] NYTimes.com Article: Voter ID Problems in Florida

michael at intrafi.com michael at intrafi.com
Tue Sep 7 11:26:20 PDT 2004

The article below from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by michael at intrafi.com.

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Voter ID Problems in Florida

September 7, 2004


There is no excuse for turning away eligible voters at the
polls, but that is what apparently happened in Florida's
primary elections last week. Under Florida law, registered
voters can vote without showing identification. But
election officials at some polling places misstated the law
and tried to keep eligible voters from voting. In one
county, the official sample ballot got the law wrong.
Officials in Florida, and nationwide, must improve their
poll workers' training and written materials to ensure that
this does not happen in the November election. 

Florida's voter-identification law is inartfully written.
It says photo identification is required at the polls, but
it goes on to give voters without such identification an
alternative: signing affidavits swearing to their
identities. By that reasoning, Florida voters who show up
without identification should be told that they can vote as
long as they fill out affidavits. But that did not always
happen last week. 

In Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, poll watchers from
People for the American Way saw voters being turned away
after being told about half the law - the
photo-identification requirement - but not the other half,
the affidavit option. In some cases, said Elliot Mincberg,
legal director of People for the American Way, poll workers
insisted on identification even when they were shown
voting-rights leaflets citing the state election law. Some
people may never have cast ballots because they were not
informed that they had the option to file affidavits. 

The misstatement of the law goes beyond a few bad poll
workers. Osceola County's sample ballot, mailed out before
last week's election, said "Photo and Signature ID Required
at Polls," and it did not tell voters they could in fact
vote without identification. Secretary of State Glenda
Hood, who should be on the voters' side, instead backs this
misleading summary of the law. Osceola County's statement
is fine, says Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for Ms. Hood. She
said the affidavit option in the law was merely a "courtesy
to the voter." 

The misapplication of voter-identification laws is not
limited to Florida. In South Dakota, Native Americans
without identification were turned away in June, even
though the law allowed them to vote by signing affidavits. 

This fall, flaws in the enforcement of
voter-identification requirements could disenfranchise a
large number of voters. Many people do not have photo
identification, particularly the elderly, poor people and
nondrivers. Others may not have such identification with
them when they vote. 

Someone who has waited in line for an hour or two, as could
be the case in this fall's election, may not have the time
or inclination to go home to get identification. 

In the weeks leading up to Nov. 2, we will hear many times
that all Americans should exercise their right to vote.
Election officials have an obligation to do everything they
can to ensure that when citizens show up, misapplied
voter-identication rules do not prevent them from casting a



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