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Brennan Center Praises Florida for Scrapping “Potential Felon” Purge List

July 10, 2004

For Immediate Release
Saturday, July 10, 2004

Contact Information:
Jessie Allen, 646 319–3113, 212 992–8639
Scott Schell, 917 226–0237, 212 998–6318

Brennan Center Praises Florida for Scrapping Potential Felon Purge List
Governor Bush Urged to Simplify Restoration of Voting Rights

New York, NY—The State of Florida today announced that a list of over 47,000 names of potential felons distributed to County Election Supervisors would not be used to purge citizens from the voting rolls this year.

Jessie Allen, associate counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, has urged Florida officials to rectify problems with the potential felon purge list caused by the failure to fully account for eligible voters who have regained their rights through the clemency process. On Thursday, Ms. Allen sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood detailing numerous legal violations in connection with the states continued insistence on using the flawed list.

Commenting on todays decision to forego use of the purge list, Ms. Allen said: By acting today to protect fundamental voting rights, Florida has likely escaped another election disaster. Now the Governor should prevent this kind of problem from ever happening again. He can do so simply by deciding to restore voting rights automatically when a person returns to the community. No state official has ever been able to explain how allowing people into the polls who have fully served their sentences hurts either them or their neighbors. But the byzantine mechanisms the state employs for keeping them out clearly hurts democracy.

Continued Ms. Allen, Secretary Hood deserves credit for realizing that nothing good was going to come from using this deeply flawed list to take registered voters off the rolls.

The revelation that the list was racially skewed is just the latest in a long line of problems that have come to light.

Last month, the Brennan Center reported that the purge list likely included thousands of people who have had their voting rights restored because the Division of Elections used a database that appeared to be missing some 25,000 records. Then the Office of Executive Clemency admitted that the names of some people who had their rights restored before 1977 had not been given to the Division of Elections. Last week the state acknowledged that the list wrongly threatened to purge registered voters known to have received clemency, simply because they had not met the administrative technicality of re-registering.

And in the letter sent on Thursday to Secretary Hood, the state was given notice of numerous other legal violations associated with its continued insistence that county supervisors use the list, including the fact that the purge process could not be completed within 90 days of an election, which violates federal law. The letter was sent by a team of co-counsel, including the Brennan Center; the Advancement Project in Washington, D.C.; Debevoise & Plimpton, L.L.P. in New York; and the Florida Justice Institute and Thomasina Williams in Miami.