- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 12, 2008

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. | More voters than ever are expected at Florida polls Nov. 4, but a newly enforced state law could thwart thousands from having their votes count.

State election officials have notified more than 800 people in the Tampa Bay area and a total of 10,400 statewide who recently signed up to vote that they have not been qualified because of discrepancies between their registration forms and state records.

The would-be voters must clear up the discrepancies or their vote on Election Day won’t count.

The state’s “no match, no vote” law, enforced for roughly a month, has ensnared people like Eckerd College senior Brittany Reynolds.

The 20-year-old art major said she is so busy that she could barely glance at the letter she received this week, let alone fax a photocopy of her driver’s license to the Pinellas County elections office.

“It’s a real bummer,” Miss Reynolds said. “I did want to be a part of the election.”

The Republican-led 2005 Legislature enacted the law over Democratic objections. The law requires the driver’s license number or last four digits of a Social Security number written on new-voter registration applications to match numbers in a government database.

But criticism of the law has taken on new meaning in an election year that features the country’s first black mainstream party presidential nominee and unprecedented voter-registration efforts, particularly by Democrats.

Critics, who sued to block the law in federal court shortly after it was enacted, contend that the system unfairly targets Hispanics because they often use two surnames, which can cause confusion and a mismatch in the state’s voter database.

A federal judge has upheld the law, but the controversy has grown after Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning issued orders to implement it.

The Florida Democratic Party unsuccessfully petitioned Gov. Charlie Crist, a Republican, to suspend the law until after Election Day.

Now criticism is rising among some county election supervisors, who are elected by local voters. They think Mr. Browning, a former Republican elections supervisor in Pasco County, issued orders that don’t provide enough latitude to ensure the widest voter participation.

“I think the state has gone way beyond the intent of the law,” Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark, a Republican, said Friday in a tense conference call with Mr. Browning.

Mr. Browning has said the law requires voters to clear up discrepancies in an elections office to create a paper “audit trail.” Voters who haven’t done so before Election Day can cast provisional ballots at the polls, but the ballot is counted only if the voter resolves the discrepancy within two days.

Despite the emotion, the law has snared a fraction of the 229,000 people who have registered since Sept. 8 when enforcement began. They are a subset of more than 800,000 newly registered voters this year. The Florida Democratic Party claims 360,000 of those registered as Democrats, compared with 190,000 who registered Republican. All told, more than 11 million Floridians are now registered to vote.

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