Rigid FL Voter Law Still Being Enforced

Submitted by tnjp on December 21, 2007 - 2:54pm.

Rigid voter law still being enforced
Posted on Thu, Dec. 20, 2007 BY GARY FINEOUT
TALLAHASSEE --
Despite a federal judge's order, state election officials have told Florida's 67 election supervisors to keep following a controversial voter registration law.

U.S. Judge Stephan Mickle earlier this week ordered state officials to stop enforcing the 2-year-old law that requires information filled out on voter registration forms to match numbers maintained in state and federal databases.

But Sarah Jane Bradshaw, the interim head of the state Division of Elections, told election supervisors to maintain their current procedures for verifying voter registration forms while the state prepares an appeal of the ruling. ''We will advise you as soon as we have determined whether the Supervisors of Elections will need to take any action to comply with this injunction. Please do not change any of your procedures until further notice,'' Bradshaw wrote in an e-mail that was sent out late Tuesday.

A spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning contended that state officials were not defying the judge's order.

''I would disagree with that statement,'' said Sterling Ivey.

Ivey said the department's legal staff was meeting with the technical staff that maintains the database to figure out how Florida could comply with Mickle's order. But he also acknowledged that the state will continue to follow the law at this time.

''We haven't changed anything yet,'' Ivey said.

About 14,000 people have not been able to register because of Florida's ''no match'' law that requires a citizen's name on a voter registration form be matched with a Social Security number or driver's license number. The law has been challenged by the NAACP and a Miami-based Haitian group that say the law unfairly blocks blacks and Hispanics from being able to register to vote.

Many of those who have had their registrations rejected since January 2006 when the law took effect are from South Florida. The groups that filed the lawsuit told the court that 35 percent are from Miami-Dade County and 8 percent from Broward.

Mickle ordered state officials to stop enforcing the law on Tuesday, saying there is already proof that the change resulted in ''actual harm to real individuals'' and violates federal voting laws.'

Gov. Charlie Crist, while saying he has not reviewed the ruling, defended Browning.

''I think it's important we always adhere to the law, and I think that's what the secretary of state is doing,'' Crist said.

At least one elections supervisor is not waiting for further instructions from state election officials. Ion Sancho, a Leon County elections supervisor who has clashed repeatedly with state authorities, has already ordered his office to review the files of nearly 500 people previously rejected by the state.

Sancho also said that his office will add new voters to the rolls even if the state says their numbers did not match on their application form.

''I'm not going to wait for the division to say go or no go, I swore allegiance to the federal Constitution,'' Sancho said. ``This jurisdiction will always follow a federal judge's order.''

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