09 June 2004

Delays, Purge Hit Voter Rolls

June 7, 2004

TAMPA - For the second straight presidential election, Florida's law against former felons voting, a law grounded in Old South racism, may prevent thousands of people from voting.

Some of those people may be legally entitled to vote. Others won't be able to navigate the bureaucratic hurdles of the state's clemency process to get their rights restored in time for the election.

But the state government is concentrating on removing as many former felons from voting rolls as possible, even though critics charge that it risks disenfranchising some who are legally entitled to vote. Meanwhile, those critics charge, the state is dragging its feet on restoring those wrongly removed from voter rolls in 2000.

Florida is one of only seven states with laws that prevent former felons from voting unless they go through a long and sometimes difficult process of having their rights restored.

That law, which wasn't enforced by the state before the controversial 2000 presidential race, caused hundreds or possibly thousands of voters - no one knows for sure - to be turned away from the polls in 2000, some wrongly, because of errors in a state ``purge list'' of former felons.


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