Florida: 58,000 Missing Ballots and 9 Lawsuits
Long lines, busy signals fuel voting frustration in Broward (Sun-Sentinel)
The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office pointed a finger at the U.S. Postal Service on Tuesday for nearly 60,000 missing absentee ballots, but took the blame for having a phone system that was being overwhelmed by calls from frustrated voters. While the post office denied responsibility for the missing ballots, Broward County commissioners, anxious to avoid another failed election, offered to send county employees to help with the phones. Dozens of employees could begin assisting the elections office today to answer telephone calls and to process voters at the 14 early voting sites. “What we are seeing is unprecedented, so if the supervisor of elections needs our help, we will help,” County Mayor Ilene Lieberman said. “It’s a week to the election, and voting is a basic right in our country.”
Just six days away from the general election, the Supervisor of Elections Office has fielded hundreds of complaints from people that have yet to receive their absentee ballot. Countless more have been unable to get through to election officials to complain or get their questions answered. “I tried for the last week or so to call the elections office and it’s just busy continually,” said Paula Zubatkin, 70, whose four-week-old request for an absentee ballot has gone unanswered. “I want to vote.”
Election officials also said they launched an investigation and found that many of the missing ballots — 58,000 of them — were sent on Oct. 7 and Oct 8. The problem, they say, lies with the post office. “That is something beyond our control,” Deputy Supervisor of Elections Gisela Salas said. “We really have no idea what’s going on. It’s just taken an extraordinary amount of time. I would really encourage people to use early voting.”
Democrats file 9 suits in Florida (Washington Times)
Democrats in Florida already are pursuing nine election-related lawsuits, accusing state election officials of conspiring to disenfranchise minority voters. Led by the Florida Democratic Party, the People for the American Way, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the AFL-CIO, the lawsuits target, among others, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Jeb Bush, President Bush’s brother. The suits say Republican officials refused to count provisional ballots, improperly disqualified incomplete voter registrations, established overly restrictive rules to disproportionately hurt minority voters and actively sought to disenfranchise blacks.
Matt Miller, a spokesman for the Kerry campaign, said Republicans are “trying to scare people away from the polls.” But Mrs. Hood’s spokesman, Alia Faraj, described the lawsuits as politically motivated, saying they were eroding public confidence in the election process by challenging “every single law we are following.”
One suit challenges a ruling by Mrs. Hood to throw out forms on which new voters had failed to check a box indicating whether they were U.S. citizens, and another argued that although only 17 percent of the voters in Broward County and 20 percent in Miami-Dade County were black, more than a third of the voter-registration forms that were determined to be incomplete and invalid in both counties involved black voters.
A mess, to be sure. One would think registering to vote would be rather simple. That so many poorly educated citizens are having difficulty handling the process and thus being ruled ineligible is a rather ironic consequence of legislation such as Motor Voter that aimed at increasing the proportion of such voters that register. Under the old system, where people actually had to go to the courthouse or a similar location to register, there was someone there to ensure that the registration information was filled out correctly. When registration is done at shopping malls or by mail, prompted by untrained volunteers, no such safeguards exist.