Lawsuit Seeks Access to Voter Purge List in Florida

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While omitting a name from a mailing when it closely matches one appearing on a suppression file probably would indicate good judgment on the part of a direct marketer, it's another story when it comes to a state purging names from its voter rolls.


The second scenario has been an issue in Florida since the 2000 presidential election, and it is now the focus of a lawsuit that centers on a current list of more than 47,000 registered Florida voters who were identified as possible felons. Florida is one of seven states that does not let convicted felons vote unless their voting rights have been restored.


On Wednesday, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Nikki Clark refused to dismiss a lawsuit brought against the Florida Division of Elections by CNN and backed by the First Amendment Foundation and several Florida media organizations.


The groups want access to the list, as they claim a similar list compiled before the 2000 election may have been the source of eligible voters being denied their right to vote that year.


Clark gave both sides 15 days to file written responses and will issue her decision soon afterward.


Though it is unclear how this year's list was put together, some news reports say the information was provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.


That was not the case four years ago, when a firm called Database Technologies was contracted to provide the list before the 2000 election. DBT was acquired by ChoicePoint Inc., Alpharetta, GA, shortly after it supplied the list. However, ChoicePoint made it clear four years ago that it wanted nothing to do with the matter.


"ChoicePoint has never been involved in the review of voter registration rolls in Florida or other states and has no plans to do so," the company said in a statement at the time. "DBT was under contract with the state of Florida from late 1998 through 2000 to create a list, under the Florida voting fraud statute, of registered voters who may have been deceased, may have been registered in more than one county or may have been convicted felons. Florida law at the time required that county election supervisors verify the accuracy of the voter exception list, not DBT nor any outside consulting firm."


DBT also told the state that some names on the list would be incorrectly identified, but state officials claimed local officials would verify the information, ChoicePoint said.


"Obviously, we can't say whether the lists were verified or not," Chuck Jones, director of external affairs at ChoicePoint, told DM News last week.


He stressed that it is highly likely that individuals could have been misidentified.


"For example, my name, Chuck Jones, could have been matched up with C. Jones, Charles Jones, Charlie Jones, etc.," he said.


Elections supervisors in Florida are currently examining the 2004 list and sending registered letters to those suspected of being felons based on the list to give them a chance to correct that record before purging their names.


The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has set up a toll-free number for elections supervisors to call with questions regarding a particular voter. It also is working on a Web site that would let appeal forms be filled out online.


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