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Community Organization Charges Florida With Suppressing Poor Voters

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<!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08inby Jack O’Spades

(Notice of full disclosure: Mr. O’Spades has been the volunteer in charge of Information Technology for Central Florida ACORN.)


It is a drastic understatement to say that Florida is no stranger to election mishaps. Whether through deliberate actions of political and economic interests (*cough* Katherine Harris *cough*), or good ol’ Floridian incompetence, we still continue to set the standard for stupidity in voting. As such, it should come to no surprise that we are on the forefront of new, and innovative ways, to part democracy from voting.


According to community organization ACORN, (or the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), the state of Florida is shirking its responsibilities under the National Voter Registration Act, better known as the “Motor Voter” Act. This act was passed in 1993 to help facilitate voting by providing voter registration forms in government buildings, such as DMVs, of which gave the bill its nickname. Voter registration forms are also to be made available to the public through government programs to help weed out the vast discrepancy between rich and poor voters. Furthermore, the bill provides safeguards to voters who have moved within the confines of their district or precinct, allowing them to retain the right to vote even if they have not re-registered with their new address.


However, ACORN along with non-partisan groups Project Vote Smart and Demos, a voter awareness and a policy research group respectfully, have sent a notice of potentially pending litigation to both the Department of Health and the Department of Children and Families. These groups point to dwindling numbers of voter registrations made available from entities supposedly ensured with providing voter registrations under the National Voter Registration Act. According to a press release issued by Florida ACORN, the voter registration forms at public assistance agencies have dropped by over 90% within one decade, from 158,836 in 1995-1996 to 13,436 in 2005-2006. At the beginning of the same decade, 6% of all voter registrations were obtained from public assistance agencies, this number had dropped six fold by 2006.


In a telephone interview, Mr. Sterling Ivy of the Florida Department of Elections posited that the allegations made by ACORN are “unfortunate”. He went on to claim that both departments involved are fully complying with the Florida department of elections, as outlined in the National Voter Registration Act. Furthermore, Mr. Ivy claims that while the number of in person registrations are down, there has been a corresponding increase in mailed registrations from public service offices.

However, according to information from the Federal Elections Commission and the US Election Assistance Commission (the latter being a group created by the NVRA to ensure its compliance), mail registrations have also dropped. From 1995-1996, there were 706,163 registrations turned in by mail, being 25.93% of all registrations collected. In 2005-2006, mail registrations dropped to 245,393 or 13.57% of the total collected. The difference is particularly marked in the number of new registrations by mail which, according to information on the Florida Department of Elections site, dropped to 84,045, the lowest turnout in the last 10 years.


It remains to be seen if the lawsuit will go forward, and what the official defense of the Florida state department will be if it does. While the organizations bring the lawsuit forward have brought a compelling argument, it should be noted that the number of voter registrations in general have dropped since a high around 2004.


Also, while the methodology on the number of registrations available in public service offices and the amount turned in from areas covered by the NVRA seems solid, some of the methods used by ACORN could use some more work. They found that out of seven public service offices in the four most populous counties, four of them did not have voter registrations, even after officials there were approached for them. While this is certainly disturbing, it is hardly a compelling sample. The same can be said of the volunteer sample taken of 49 individuals as they exited public service offices.


Regardless of the few statistical maladies of the case, the Florida state department has a lot to answer for. It seems that while the amount of registrations turned in has fallen since the high of 2004, the amount from public service offices has fallen at a disproportionate rate. We here at the Press will keep you informed of ongoing development on this issue!


Written by jackofspades83

February 20, 2008 at 10:58 pm

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