Sarasota Herald-Tribune

State scraps felon voter list

Florida election officials said Saturday they will scrap the list they were using to purge felons off the state’s voter rolls, admitting that the list has too many flaws to proceed.

The decision followed a report Wednesday in the Herald-Tribune that a flaw in the way state officials created the list might allow thousands of felons to keep their right to vote simply because they are Hispanic.

Of the 47,763 potential felons on the list, only 61 are classified as Hispanic, compared with about 24,000 whites and 22,000 blacks. Though Hispanics represent 17 percent of the state’s population, they make up less than 1 percent of the state’s list.

The problem was unintentional, Nicole de Lara, a spokeswoman for Secretary of State Glenda Hood, said Saturday.

“Nevertheless, Supervisors of Elections are required to uphold their constitutional obligation and will continue to work with Clerks of the Court to ensure that ineligible felons are removed from the rolls, a process that has always been a part of their due diligence,” Hood said in a statement.

State officials created their list by matching information from voter registration databases and felony data from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Using categories such as name, date of birth, sex and race, officials built their list of potential felons when those pieces of identification matched. If those categories did not match across the two lists, the names were not included.

When the Herald-Tribune first reported the flaw in the list earlier this week, election officials said that had no idea what caused the discrepancy.

But they conceded that it may have been caused by the fact that Hispanics, more than any other group of people, are traditionally difficult to place into one race or ethnic category.

A black Cuban, for example, might have registered to vote as a Hispanic, but then be classified as black in FDLE records. The result is that that person would not have been included on the state’s list.

In fact, the flaw in the state’s methodology was far worse, virtually assuring a list with no Hispanics, a block of voters who have traditionally supported Florida Republicans.

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