TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A voter registration law wrongly barred thousands of Florida residents from taking part in the 2006 election and should be thrown out, the NAACP and others said in a federal lawsuit filed Monday.
The law prevents voters from registering if their driver’s license or Social Security information doesn’t match what is on the registration form.
Opponents of the law say it and similar requirements in a number of states have caused myriad problems. Legitimate voters have been thwarted for having a maiden name on a driver’s license instead of a married name, or because of database input errors that make one digit wrong in a birth date, opponents said.
The lawsuit claims more than 20,000 people had their voter registration slowed down or denied in 2006 because of difficulties in confirming registration data.
The process is also too subject to user error, the lawsuit said. For example, a registration application would be thrown out if a potential voter accidentally reverses a couple of digits in their 13-digit driver’s license number, the suit said.
“With the elections approaching, we should be doing everything we can to ensure that eligible citizens can register to vote and have it count, but Florida’s draconian registration law won’t give many citizens that chance,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP.
Secretary of State Kurt Browning, named as the defendant and who oversees Florida compliance with election laws, said officials work to resolve discrepancies, but noted that the matching program is a requirement of the federal government.
“I will reiterate that it is the intention of the Department of State to make sure that every eligible voter in the state of Florida has the means and the opportunity to register to vote and to cast a ballot,” he said in a statement.
He concluded, “I have every confidence that Florida is complying with all state and federal laws.”
Gov. Charlie Crist said that he wasn’t familiar with the lawsuit and couldn’t comment.
In 2006, a federal judge barred the state of Washington from enforcing a similar law.
The state subsequently agreed to let people whose names do not perfectly match information in other government databases to register – but election officials now flag their names and require additional information before their ballots are counted.