Monday, July 19, 2004

Florida’s problems are not over
For almost four years the state of Florida has been trying to figure out how to hold an election that allows all entitled citizens to vote and leaves the public with some level of confidence that their votes would be accurately counted. This task, which is routinely accomplished by the other forty-nine states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and several dozen foreign countries, appears to be beyond their ability.

The latest fiasco occurred just over a week ago when they released a new list to be used in ensuring that reformed felons are properly disenfranchised as required by Florida law. The previous list was riddled with mistakes and disenfranchised many of the wrong people. The new list also appeared to be filled with mistakes. The most glaring was that it included almost no Hispanic ex-felons. Hispanic voters in Florida overwhelmingly favor Republican candidates. The almost exclusively Republican state officers charged with creating and enforcing the list loudly announced that that was just a coincidence, before withdrawing the list and telling Florida’s 67 counties to make do as best they can.

Not so fast, says the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights:
Members of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights called Thursday for a federal investigation to determine whether Florida officials violated the Voting Rights Act when they put together an error-plagued list designed to purge felons from the state's voting rolls.


Mary Frances Berry, outspoken chairman of the commission that produced a scathing report on the 2000 election in Florida, did not express much optimism that the Justice Department would take serious action. But because the commission has no regulatory or enforcement power, she said, handing the complaint to Justice is the only thing to do.


Commissioners said they were shocked that the state somehow managed to end up in a bigger mess in trying to pare felons from the voting rolls than it had four years ago. Meg McLaughlin, a partner at Accenture, the company that compiled the flawed list, was peppered with questions about how things went so awry.

McLaughlin explained that Accenture -- which earned at least $1.8 million for the database -- had nothing to do with the flaws in the data that went into it.

You may remember Accenture. They were formerly known as Anderson Consulting, a branch of Arthur Anderson, Enron’s auditors. AC, as they were known, had the luck to break away from Arthur Anderson and change its name just before Enron imploded and took the mother company with it. Lately, they’ve been in the news over a Department of Homeland Security contract to design a system to track foreign visitors entering and leaving the United States. Accenture’s partner in the tracking contract is Titan Corporation, the contractor who provided consultants to Abu Ghraib prison. Small world, isn’t it.

Meanwhile, Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood has ordered her own audit of the felon list to determine how the state got such a bad list and whether it exposes Florida to further lawsuits. She needn’t waste her time; the answer is yes. The law suits are already on the way.

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