09 June 2004

CNN sues for access to Florida's voter rolls

CNN filed a lawsuit against Florida's elections office last week for access to a list of possible felons whose names may be deleted from state voter rolls.

June 4, 2004 -- CNN filed a lawsuit against Florida's elections division last Friday for access to a list of almost 48,000 possible felons who may be deleted from voter rolls. The state forwards the list to county elections officials who determine which individuals are ineligible to vote.

"In the last general election, it is estimated that thousands of voters were turned away from the polls after the [Florida] Division of Elections sent counties an inaccurate list of 173,142 suspected felons and other persons not eligible to vote," CNN said in its May 28 complaint.

President Bush defeated Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election after being declared the winner in Florida by 537 votes, following weeks of recounts and legal challenges that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly all of the people wrongfully purged from Florida's voter list in 2000 were Democrats and more than half were African-Americans, according to an investigative series by BBC reporter Greg Palast.

"With only six months remaining until the next election, the issue of potential voter disenfranchisement is of critical importance," the CNN complaint said, noting this is particularly so when it could affect the outcome of a presidential election.

On May 24, the state denied CNN's Public Records Act request for copies of the list, citing a statutory exemption to the open records law.

The exemption states that copies of voter registration records can only be made for government agencies, political candidates, committees, parties and incumbent elected officials.


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