Guest Blogged by DES
In a response to unprecedented voter turnout, this afternoon Florida's Republican Governor Charlie Crist ordered the extension of early voting hours...
From the St. Petersberg Times today...
At a hastily arranged news conference, Crist said the right to vote is sacred and that "many have fought and died for this right." He said he consulted a leading Democratic legislator, Rep. Dan Gelber of Miami Beach, before issuing his order, and that Gelber knew of a similar order issued by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2002 that dealt with helping voters deal with new equipment.
As to the perception that more early voting helps Democrats, Crist said: "This is not a political decision. This is a people decision."
Early balloting in Florida so far favors Democrats, while Republicans hold an advantage in absentee voting. Waits of up to four hours have been reported in precincts in heavily-Democratic Broward County.
After initially refusing to consider [PDF] the expansion of early voting hours, even after requests from Florida's Congressional delegation, Secretary of State Kurt Browning apparently changed his mind and sent sent a formal request [PDF] to the governor today.
As we reported last week, the Republican-dominated state legislature had ordered the rule change in 2005, truncating early-voting to "save on costs."
In other Florida voting news, Broward County Elections Supervisor Brenda Snipes has also reversed her initial stance on a strict reading of the state's new "No Match, No Vote" rule, bowing to public pressure to allow "a one-stop Election Day option for its 1,600-plus 'unverified' voters." Previously, Snipes had insisted that every voter caught on the troubled "no match" list be required to perform a two-step process, according to the Miami Herald:
But Broward elections spokeswoman Mary Cooney said Snipes, a Democrat in a county that is a stronghold for the party, decided to tweak Broward's policy after a weekend talk with Lester Sola, Miami-Dade County's elections supervisor.
Broward will still require a provisional ballot, but if a voter brings copies of a driver's license or Social Security card, that information will be attached to the ballot and no further action would be required. ''You do not need to do anything further,'' she said. `You have complied with the request to provide proof of identification.''
Miami-Dade's process goes further, allowing unverified voters to use a regular ballot, which can't later be contested, if they supply copies of ID proof.
The "no match" provision has proved to be controversial, due to the risk of typos and other data entry mistakes beyond the control of the voter; the Social Security database used by Florida to verify voter registration information has a 28.5% error rate. For example, a voter registered as John Smith might be disallowed his vote, if he his drivers license was under the name John A. Smith.
Over 12,000 voters in Florida have been identified as "unverified" and at risk of being forced to vote on a provisional ballot, which may or may not ultimately be counted. As reported in the St. Petersburg Times today:
Those people, part of more than 12,000 statewide, must cast provisional ballots unless they can quickly resolve discrepancies between their completed voter registration forms and driver license or Social Security numbers in government databases.
The election is Nov. 4, one week from today.
The state released a new and larger "no match" list Monday of 12,165 names, compared with 8,867 on an earlier list released Oct. 16.
The new list includes unverified names from the previous list, and is again disproportionately made up of African-Americans, Hispanics, Democrats and residents of South Florida.
African-Americans and Hispanics combined account for 55 percent of would-be voters on the latest list, which includes 6,194 Democrats and 1,440 Republicans.
Florida has 11.2-million voters, of whom 438,000 have registered to vote since Sept. 8 when Secretary of State Kurt Browning decided to enforce the "no match" law.
Under unrelenting criticism by the law's critics, Browning has said the "no match" law is necessary to ensure the integrity of the voter rolls. His office notes that the list of unverified voters is less than 2.7 percent of all new voters in the state.
Broward County voters on the "no match" list will still be required to vote on a provisional ballot, but if they "bring copies of a driver's license or Social Security card, that information will be attached to the ballot and no further action would be required by the voter."
More than 30 Florida counties are offering similar one-stop options for voters whose information did not match with state and federal databases. Miami-Dade County, which ranked at the top of the list with the most "no match" voter records, goes further: unverified voters will be allowed to use a regular ballot, which can't later be contested, as long as they supply copies of ID proof at the polling place.