June 11, 2004 – After the 2000 presidential election debacle in Florida, many county elections supervisors are anxious to get it right this time around. At a weeklong gathering they questioned state elections officials about exactly how to determine if people on the list of probable felons provided in May should be purged from voter roles. In the lead up to the 2000 election, thousands of people were wrongly disenfranchised in the stateâ€™s overly zealous attempt to strip convicted felons from lists of eligible voters. Civil rights groups criticized Florida officials this year. They charge that state elections supervisors are asking local officials to remove people from the lists without first reinstating the voting rights of people who were wrongly purged in 2000.
New policies, passed by the State Legislature after the 2000 election, are meant to improve the process this year and contain many safeguards, such as requiring county supervisors to verify that people are in fact convicted felons before sending them a letter notifying them that they cannot vote. But during this weekâ€™s meeting, local supervisors were unclear on how to verify the necessary information and said they were overwhelmed by the task. Furthermore, the departing chief of elections said that supervisors did not have to go out of their way to find the information. Most supervisors, however, had agreed to get positive proof of felony convictions before sending notification letters. "I'm not sending any letters out until I have a piece of paper in my hand saying thatâ€™s the way it is," vowed Pat Hollarn, one county elections supervisor. "I'll keep checking and checking and checking." Florida is one of only seven states that bars convicted felons from voting even after they have completed their sentences.