Voter ID problems in Florida primaries
People for the American Way
September/October 2004

September 7--There is no excuse for turning away eligible voters at the polls, but that is what apparently happened in Florida's primary elections August 31. Under Florida law, registered voters can vote without showing identification. But election officials at some polling places misstated the law and tried to keep eligible voters from voting. In one county, the official sample ballot got the law wrong. Officials in Florida, and nationwide, must improve their poll workers' training and written materials to ensure that this does not happen in the November election.

Florida's voter-identification law is inartfully written. It says photo identification is required at the polls, but it goes on to give voters without such identification an alternative: signing affidavits swearing to their identities. By that reasoning, Florida voters who show up without identification should be told that they can vote as long as they fill out affidavits. But that did not always happen.

In Broward and Miami-Dade Counties, poll watchers from People for the American Way saw voters being turned away after being told about half the law - the photo-identification requirement - but not the other half, the affidavit option. In some cases, said Elliot Mincberg, legal director of People for the American Way, poll workers insisted on identification even when they were shown voting-rights leaflets citing the state election law. Some people may never have cast ballots because they were not informed that they had the option to file affidavits.

The misstatement of the law goes beyond a few bad poll workers. Osceola County's sample ballot, mailed out before last week's election, said "Photo and Signature ID Required at Polls," and it did not tell voters they could in fact vote without identification. Secretary of State Glenda Hood, who should be on the voters' side, instead backs this misleading summary of the law. Osceola County's statement is fine, says Jenny Nash, a spokeswoman for Ms. Hood. She said the affidavit option in the law was merely a "courtesy to the voter."...

People for the American Way ( is one organization among many which have created Election Protection ( To volunteer as an election protection worker for the November election, sign up on the website or call 866-204-1941. The organization provides training and assigns you to areas which are expected to need volunteers.

If you have problems with registration, absentee ballots, polling places, or problems voting, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE, a hotline set up by Election Protection to ensure people their right to vote. Spread the word.

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