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Attorney Says Voter Proof At the Polls Okay

October 23, 2008

Voters who are concerned about providing proper proof of eligibility at the polls received some good news Tuesday from the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections. Local election supervisors can accept proof of voter eligibility, even on Election Day, according to a letter from an attorney for the Association.

The advocacy group Common Cause has been working to contact voters whose names appear on the state's "No Match, No Vote" list, in order to help them resolve their eligibility problems before the November 4 election.

There are nearly 9,000 people on the list, more than half of whom are elderly, students and/or minorities. While voter advocates are pleased with the decision, Ben Wilcox, executive director of Common Cause Florida, predicts not everyone will have their issues resolved by the time they show up at the polls.

"I feel like I'm watching a train wreck about to happen. I do think there is potential for real problems on Election Day, again, here in Florida."

The "No Match, No Vote" law requires an exact match of voter registration forms, to either a person's driver's license or Social Security records already in the state records. Wilcox points out that even a simple clerical error can easily put a voter in limbo, and that implementing the law as recently as September 8 has only added to Florida's voting problems.

"We have no evidence of any kind of widespread voter fraud in Florida. The problem has been voting machines losing votes, and hanging chads. Our problems have been in election administration, not voter fraud."

Alex Keyssar is a Harvard University professor of history and social policy, and author of the book, "The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States." Keyssar says Florida's voting problems must be resolved, because they affect public confidence in government.

"It's very threatening to our democracy to be having these conflicts going on, which people will experience as threatening and discouraging. And it could also affect the perceived legitimacy of an election outcome."

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning has said the "No Match, No Vote" law is essential to preventing voter fraud.

Gina Presson/Kevin Clay, Public News Service - FL