Like most college aged young women, Erin Jones was a registered Democrat by default. She thought she was being compassionate. She thought it was “the right thing to do.” She was proud to walk into the Hillsborough County Office of the Supervisor of Elections, show her driver’s license and register to vote. Little did she know that she would remain registered at that location for more than 14 years despite marrying and changing her name, moving multiple times, registering in 2 other states and repeatedly requesting Erin Jones be removed from the Florida voter registration database.
In 1998, I married and took my husband’s last name. Shortly after, our young family moved out of Hillsborough County. We lived on the other coast of Florida for a few years, moved to Alabama for 5 years and then settled in Minnesota in 2008. Upon each move I registered to vote at my new address, always assuming that any previous registration would expire and knowing that I could no longer vote in a place I didn’t live. I considered myself to be an independent voter and cared very little about party affiliation. I just wasn’t all that concerned with politics.
Throughout the years, my parents, who still reside in Florida, would occasionally receive election information in the mail addressed to Erin Jones. Assuming it was a simple mistake, they would usually discard it. At least twice between 1999 and 2008, I called the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections and asked to be removed from their lists. But in the summer of 2008, my parents began to receive considerably more mail for Erin Jones and some of it looked rather “official.”
My parents decided to forward the mail they received to my new home in Minnesota. There were campaign literature pieces from Democratic candidates. There were sample ballots for the primary and general elections. In the summer of 2008, I made yet another phone call to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. I begged the clerk who answered to please take me off the rolls. I explained that I hadn’t lived in Tampa for many years and how my name wasn’t even Jones anymore. I begged to be removed for fear that someone would try to vote in my name or worse, steal my identity. I was assured that I wouldn’t have to make this call again and that I would indeed be removed from the Florida voter registration database.
By the summer of 2008 I had become much more politically active. I started reading the news and investigating issues I felt would directly impact me and my growing family. I became concerned with which party affiliation truly represented my values. I became even more intrigued by voter registration policies and reflected on my own experience. Convinced that voter fraud was easier to accomplish than most would care to admit, I chose to become a poll watcher. I wanted to do a small part to ensure the integrity of elections.
I was so stunned by what I experienced on election day 2008 that I wrote about it for Examiner.com. Far from an isolated incident, I began revealing more shady election and voter registration practices in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
It became clear; voter fraud isn’t just possible, it’s easy.
Fast forward three and a half years to the summer of 2012. To my parents’ surprise, they again received election information for Erin Jones from Hillsborough County. We were all shocked to find that an official Voter Information Card, issued to Erin Jones with my previous address, was mailed directly to my parents’ home more than 100 miles from Tampa.
How could I still be on the voter registration rolls in Florida after not living or voting in the state for many years? How is it possible to be registered in two states? Why hadn’t I been removed, as requested, from the database? Why was the Hillsborough Country Supervisor of Elections sending election information to an address clear across the state? My curiosity took hold. I wanted to know if this voter identification card would allow me to receive an absentee ballot. Of course I didn’t actually want a ballot, I just wanted to know if it was possible. Being that I am registered to vote in Minnesota, this card could conceivably make it possible to vote in both states. Surely it couldn’t be this easy to vote twice, right?
I again phoned the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. A nice gentleman answered the call and seemed knowledgable of the absentee voting process. I told him I had received my voter registration card and provided my voter identification number (FVRS#). When I asked what the process is to receive a ballot, the clerk informed me that I would simply need to let them know I wanted one. He suggested I call about 29 days before election day. The conversation concluded with me saying that if I intended to vote absentee, I would happily call back.
Imagine my parents’ disbelief when in their mailbox they find an Official Absentee Ballot addressed to Erin Jones. They promptly sent it to me, not wanting to throw it in the trash and risk someone else using it to vote using my information.
Obviously I won’t be voting twice. But I can’t be the only person who has tried to be removed from the Florida voter rolls without success. I simply can’t be the only person with this or a similar situation that allows double voting. What of the people who don’t know that they are still in the Florida voter database? And what if the mail wasn’t going to my parents’ home? What if some random person was receiving my personal registration information and chose to vote on my behalf without my knowing it?
Florida has been riddled with election integrity issues since the 2000 presidential election that left “hanging chads” the determining factor for who would be named President. Since that time, the state has had more than its share of problems. Most recently, Florida has tried to clean up their voter rolls, purging ineligible registrants, but the state has faced backlash from the Federal Department of Justice. Lawsuits have been threatened and filed by both the State of Florida and by the DOJ creating a messy situation just weeks before a closely contested presidential election.
Using the federal immigration database, Florida was able to remove over 200 non-US citizens from its rolls in early September, but obviously the purge was far from complete. There are definitely people still on the rolls who are ineligible to vote in Florida.
The question now becomes, “how do we fix the problem?” Though it’s highly unlikely anything can be done to ensure the integrity of the 2012 presidential election, this issue must be addressed and solved if the United States is to hold fair and honest elections in the future.
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