People For the American Way Foundation Protests New Voter Purge

Offers Help in Restoring Voters Wrongly Purged in 2000

People For the American Way Foundation (PFAWF) is protesting Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood’s order for rapid implementation of a new purge list with the names of 47,000 Floridians, while thousands of voters remain wrongly disenfranchised from the purge lists implemented in the 2000 and 1999 elections. Foundation President Ralph G. Neas said voters wrongly stripped from the rolls in past elections should be restored before the same mistakes are made again, and he offered the foundation’s help.

Hood wrote to county supervisors May 25th, requesting that they deliver a plan to her office by Friday of this week, describing how they will implement the new purge list. Meanwhile, fewer than 800 from a list of more than 19,000 voters who may have been wrongly removed from the registration lists in 2000 and 1999 have been restored.

“Secretary Hood, it is simply outrageous that you would give county supervisors just seven working days to devise a timetable for a new purge of the voter rolls, when in more than eight months you have taken absolutely no action to follow up on the restoration of voting rights of voters improperly purged from the rolls in 1999 and 2000,” Neas wrote in a June 1 letter.

“State officials, including your own director of elections, Ed Kast, have publicly acknowledged that the new list most certainly contains errors. Four years after the first list created widespread disenfranchisement, we face the same prospect again,” the letter continued. “I cannot stress enough the importance of restoring the rights of disenfranchised voters before the state takes action to remove any additional voters from the rolls.”

As a recent article in the Miami Herald reported, just 33 of Florida’s 67 counties have responded to the one and only request from the state to report on the progress of restoring voters wrongly purged in 2000 and 1999. Over the past few weeks, PFAWF has contacted election officials in the remaining counties. Many could not remember the state’s September 30, 2003 request.

“The counties did not see the restoration of voting rights as a priority from the State of Florida, and the state has done nothing to press the issue….The first concern of the state should be to restore the rights of voters eligible to go to the polls and cast their vote, not start another process to remove voters. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the state of Florida is more interested in disenfranchising voters than safeguarding the rights of citizens to vote,” Neas wrote. “The state must reverse its priorities.”

With offices in Miami and Tallahassee, People For the American Way Foundation is part of a coalition of nonprofit, nonpartisan organizations operating the “Election Protection” program in Florida and other states to educate voters about their voting rights; to provide legal assistance and advice to voters who encounter difficulties in registering to vote and gaining access to polling places; to guard against instances of voter suppression and intimidation; and to help resolve problems before election day.

The letter, with a description of the county responses to PFAWF’s inquiries of last week, is available here.

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