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Felon list surprises voters

SUNDAY, JULY 4, 2004

TAMPA, Fla. – Many Floridians have been shocked to find their names on a new state list of nearly 48,000 people identified as felons who may be ineligible to vote, even though they have no criminal record or have been granted clemency.

“Weird. I’ve never been arrested for felonies,” said William Miller, 50, of Tampa.

The unemployed mechanic has no criminal record and is a registered voter. He apparently was confused with a man who has the same first and last name, plus the same birthday – but who has a different middle name and a criminal record.

State officials have said there are people on the list who are not felons, and elections workers have flagged more than 300 people listed who might have received clemency. Others on the list had registered to vote before they received clemency and need to register again, election officials said.

The new list, released Thursday, revives memories of the 2000 presidential election, in which many residents discovered at the polls that they weren’t allowed to vote. An error-filled list had been produced by an outside company and elections supervisors removed voters without verifying its accuracy.

Many Democrats were convinced state officials purposely culled too many voters from the rolls in order to ensure George W. Bush’s election.

“This potential careless and needless disfranchisement of thousands of voters is extremely disturbing,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe said of the new list. “Florida’s list of felons … needs to be scrapped.”

A spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Jeb Bush dismissed Democrats’ complaints as “pure politics.”

Election officials emphasized that the list is intended to be a starting point for county election supervisors.

On Election Day, anyone who feels they have been inadvertently removed from the voter rolls will be allowed to use a provisional ballot that will be examined later to determine eligibility.


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