Sunday, August 1, 2004

They Knew

From the Miami Herald:

TALLAHASSEE – Well before they abruptly discarded it, Florida election officials knew they had significant problems with a database of felons they planned to use in removing voters from the rolls.

Just a week before they directed local election chiefs to begin purging ineligible voters from the list of 48,000 convicted felons, state officials documented two years of failures and breakdowns with the $2.7 million contract with database vendor Accenture.

A May 2 internal memo, ordered personally by Secretary of State Glenda Hood, details a half dozen missed deadlines and broken promises, failed software programs, repeated miscues and personnel problems.

Two months after the memo, with newspapers including The Herald detailing major flaws with the felon database that could have disenfranchised thousands, the state reversed course and told election chiefs not to use the felon list.

The problems outlined in the five-page memo do not directly foreshadow the exact glitches that forced the state to abandon the list. But the memo makes clear that the state was hitting constant hurdles in its quest to rush out a list of voters who could be deleted from the rolls.

Critics who have closely monitored Florida’s voting process say the chronology shows that the state was negligent.

“This memo is striking,” said Howard Simon, Florida director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “After two years of constant failures and fixes . . . they rushed this out the door.

“We are talking about one of our most fundamental rights, the right to vote. Maybe they should have considered the possibility that accuracy was more important than speed.”

State officials say their intentions were merely to remove ineligible voters. In Florida, convicted felons cannot vote unless the right is restored.

There’s more, including a timeline (PDF) on the purging issue and this backgrounder on Accenture.

I know that Florida is considered a “battleground state” in the upcoming election, but it sounds more like it’s going to be a court battle than one at the ballot box.