A Pro-Voter Legal Opinion in Florida?
The political blog at the St. Petersburg Times is reporting a story that almost sounds too good to be true.
Apparently, the attorney for the trade association of Florida's county election supervisors is telling the officials to ignore Republican Secretary of State Kurt Browning and not allow voter registration database mismatches to prevent anyone from voting with a regular ballot -- if they have the ID to clear up the discrepancy.
The post says:
An attorney for the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections sent a letter to supervisors statewide today weighing in on the ongoing tiff between Pinellas County Supervisor Deborah Clark and Secretary of State Kurt Browning over voter verification at the polls.
The opinion of Ron Labasky: Clark is within her right to resolve discrepancies under the "No match" law on Election Day.
Browning, a former Pasco supervisor, has argued that matching problems need to be resolved before Election Day, and in those cases that are not the voter will be allowed to cast a provisional ballot that would count only if the discrepancies are resolved within two days.
Labasky writes "the statute does not preclude the applicant from providing that information at that time [at the polls], thereby obviating any need for subsequent contact with the supervisor, assuming that information is documented." Read the full letter here.While there always is something in the fine print of election law and procedures -- particularly in Florida -- to give pause to optimism that all voters will be accommodated and see their votes correctly counted, this letter comes after several years of litigation by civil rights groups on this very issue.
Of course, one could think like a Republican election lawyer and ponder if following this advice sets up post-Election Day legal fights because these counties, should they do the right thing as suggested by their attorney, would be in violation of the state's top election official's directives (point one in a suit) and thus not all Florida voters would treated equally if different counties did different things (point two, an equal protection claim). That second issue was cited in the Bush v. Gore ruling that shut down the 2000 Florida recount.
Maybe such cynicism is unwarranted. Maybe Florida will finally have a fair presidential election. Maybe I'll keep my fingers crossed, but I won't hold my breath...