Monday, September 17, 2007

New Election Problems in Florida

With the upcoming November election less than two months away, the Miami Herald is reporting today on yet another issue that may end up disenfranchising a large number of voters in the state. Specifically, in Florida, there is a law requiring that a person’s name on a voter registration list be matched up against their driver’s license number or Social Security number; failure to do so will disallow the person from voting.

As is the case with many of these issues, the people most affected seem to be minorities, specifically Hispanics who “have additional names that may not show up in all databases, leading to the conclusion that someone's number does not match the name listed on a voter registration form”. Outside of the affect on minorities, issues may arise in situations where a woman still has her maiden name on her driver’s license or Social Security card, but is registered to vote under her married name. There is also the very real possibility that a simple keystroke error may disallow a person from having their identification properly matched up with their registration entry. Such administrative errors may wrongfully disallow many registered voters from properly exercising their right to vote.

Unlike issues with voter identification requirements, the issue at hand in this case does not focus on the unavailability or difficulty in obtaining the proper identification. What makes this potential disenfranchisement perhaps even more upsetting than these voter identification issues is the fact that a single keystroke or other computer entry error may prevent a person from voting. As Justin Levitt, an attorney for the Brennan Center for Justice, has expressed, the state is relying on a “magic number” to determine whether a person is eligible to vote or not; however, the “magic number” in question may be affected by a large number of variables, any one of which may cause a person’s registration to be deemed invalid. The reliance on such a number that can be altered in any number of ways, either intentionally or unintentionally, by presumably any number of people responsible for entering data shakes a person’s faith in the reliability of the system. The fact that this system may prevent a person from exercising their right to vote makes it even more worrisome.

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