Felon voting list in Florida includes thousands of eligible voters

Friday, July 2nd 2004, 7:09 pm
By: News On 6

Report: Felon voting list in Florida includes thousands of eligible voters

MIAMI (AP) _ More than 2,100 Floridians who had their voting rights restored were included on a list of purported felons who are potentially ineligible to vote, a newspaper reported Friday.

The names were on a Florida Division of Elections list of more than 47,000 people that was sent to county elections supervisors, who are expected to determine who should be removed from the rolls.

The Miami Herald, after a computer analysis, said at least 2,119 people on the list had received clemency and were eligible to vote.

The purge of felons from voter rolls has been an issue in Florida since the disputed 2000 presidential election. A company hired to identify ineligible voters before the election produced an error-filled list and elections supervisors removed voters without verifying its accuracy.

State elections officials disputed the Herald's report, calling it incomplete and misleading.

Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Nicole de Lara said the newspaper did not check the list against the department's records, suggesting some of the people who received clemency could have committed another felony and lost their voting rights again.

The state checks the clemency list against records from the FDLE and the Corrections Department. The Herald used corrections records.

The newspaper stood by its story and said the FDLE records covered an insignificant number of felons compared with the more comprehensive corrections department data.

``I can understand it's embarrassing to them, but it's an accurate, important and solid news story for the people of Florida,'' said Manny Garcia, the Herald's metro editor. ``We scrubbed (the list) down, we analyzed it and came up with the results.''

Of the 2,119 people identified by the Herald, 62 percent were registered Democrats, and almost half were black. Less than 20 percent were Republicans. The paper contacted 36 people on the list who confirmed they had received clemency.

De Lara said the list is a database of potential matches, not a final list of names that will be purged from the voter rolls. The Herald reported that the state had flagged more than 300 people listed who might have received clemency.

``We recognize there are people on this list that are not felons,'' de Lara said. ``This list is the beginning of the process, not the end of the process.''

On Friday, the civil rights group People for the American Way set up a Web site to search for names on the list. The database was announced the day after a Tallahassee judge ordered the state to make copies of the list, which the Herald had obtained earlier.

The Florida Democratic Party also is reviewing the list.