Voting Irregularities in Florida During the 2000 Presidential Election
First-Hand Accounts of Voter Disenfranchisement
Who are to be the electors of the Federal Representatives? Not the rich more than the poor; not the learned more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscure and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States.
Although statistics on spoiled ballots and voter purge lists point to problems in Florida’s election, perhaps the most compelling evidence of election irregularities the Commission heard was the first-hand accounts by citizens who encountered obstacles to voting. The following chapter presents individual accounts of voting system failures.
VOTERS NOT ON THE ROLLS AND UNABLE TO APPEAL
On November 7, 2000, millions of Florida voters arrived at their designated polling places to cast their votes. Unfortunately, countless voters were denied the opportunity to vote because their names did not appear on the lists of registered voters. When poll workers attempted to call the supervisors of elections offices to verify voter registration status, they were often met with continuous busy signals or no answer. In accordance with their training, most poll workers refused to permit persons to vote whose names did not appear on the rolls at their precinct. Thus, numerous Floridians were turned away from the polls on Election Day without being allowed to vote and with no opportunity to appeal the poll workers’ refusal. The following are a few examples of experiences that Floridians had who were turned away from their polling places.
Citizens Who Were Not Permitted to Vote
Cathy Jackson, an African American woman, has been a registered voter in Broward County since 1996. Upon registering in Broward County, Ms. Jackson was told that if she ever experienced a problem with her voter registration card, she would be allowed to vote if she could produce a valid driver’s license. Ms. Jackson voted in Broward without any incident using her driver’s license since 1996. However, when she went to her polling place, Precinct 52Z, on November 7, 2000, she was told that her name was not on the list. The poll workers suggested that she travel back to her old precinct in Miami-Dade County to vote. Ms. Jackson did as she was advised even though she had voted in Broward County since she moved from Miami-Dade County in 1996. After waiting 45 minutes at her old precinct, the poll workers in Miami-Dade told Ms. Jackson that her name was not on the rolls and referred her back to Broward to vote.
When Ms. Jackson returned to the Broward precinct, the poll workers advised her to wait while they checked her registration status. While she waited, Ms. Jackson observed a poll worker from another precinct within the same polling place allow an elderly white voter, whose name did not appear on the rolls, to fill out an affidavit and vote. When Ms. Jackson asked if she could do the same, the poll workers explained that she could fill out an affidavit, but that she could not vote until they had verified her registration. The phone lines to the supervisor of elections office, however, remained busy for several hours. Ms. Jackson became upset and eventually left to go to work. Undeterred by these delays, Ms. Jackson returned to her precinct after work to try to vote again, but the poll workers were never able to verify her registration status and refused to allow her to vote.
Donnise DeSouza, an African American, has been registered to vote since 1982 in Miami-Dade County. When she entered the Richmond Fire Station in Miami-Dade County at 6:50 p.m. and showed her identification to the poll worker, Ms. DeSouza was told that her name was not on the rolls. The poll worker directed her to the “problem line,” so that her registration status could be verified with the supervisor of elections office. Ms. DeSouza recalled that the line of about 15 people did not move, but at 7 p.m. when the poll began to close, a poll worker announced to the group “if our name was not on the roll that she could not let us vote and that there was nothing she could do.” The poll workers stopped their attempts to verify the registration status of the voters who had been standing in line. When Ms. DeSouza asked if there was an absentee ballot that would allow her to cast her vote, the poll worker explained that there was nothing he could do.
Ms. DeSouza testified to the Commission that she was “very agitated” and the next day began to register complaints with various sources about her experience. Upon further investigation with the office of the supervisor of elections, she discovered that the poll workers should have continued their efforts to resolve the problems of those voters who were in the precinct prior to the 7 p.m. closing time. Furthermore, Ms. DeSouza learned that her name was actually on the rolls of registered voters, because subsequently a worker at the elections office showed her the sheet that contained her name where she should have been allowed to sign. But Ms. DeSouza explained, “at that point [the election was over so] there was nothing they could do and I was deprived of my right to vote.”
Angenora Ramsey, an African American former poll worker with 18 years’ experience, had changed her address prior to November 7. Based on her familiarity with election procedures, when Ms. Ramsey went to vote at Precinct 62 in Palm Beach County, she completed a change of address affidavit. But when the poll worker tried to call the office of the supervisor of elections to verify Ms. Ramsey’s registration status, she was unable to get through. According to Ms. Ramsey, the phone lines remained busy for three and a half hours—a delay she had never experienced during her time as a poll worker. Ultimately, the poll workers refused to allow her to vote because they could not verify her voter status.
Margarita Green, a 75-year-old Cuban American woman, went to vote at the same precinct in Miami-Dade County where she had always voted since becoming a citizen in 1966. When Mrs. Green showed her registration card to the poll worker, she was told that her name was not on the rolls and that she must speak with another poll worker who would look into the problem. Mrs. Green recalled that it took a long time for the poll worker to reach the supervisor of elections because the phone line was busy. When she finally got through, the worker explained that according to their records Mrs. Green had called in 1998 and “erased” herself from the voter list. Although Mrs. Green insisted that she had not called and showed the poll worker her registration card, the poll worker refused to allow her to vote.
R. Jai Howard, vice president of the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Student Government Association, testified on behalf of more than 12,000 predominantly African American students. She described the massive voter registration efforts that took place at the school in the months preceding the November 2000 election. The association’s efforts continued until October 10, 2000 (the last day to register before the election) and included a rally in which Reverend Jesse Jackson and Ion Sancho, the Leon County supervisor of elections, participated. Despite its efforts, the Student Government Association learned in the days following the election that large numbers of students had problems voting, “including one student who had two voter registration cards with two different precincts, some students who received no voter registration cards, switching of precincts without prior notification, misinformation at precincts, and students who had attempted to register numerous times and never received registration [cards] and were never entered into the system.” As a result of these combined problems, many students who believed they had been properly registered were not allowed to vote.
Poll Workers Confirm Widespread Voter Disenfranchisement
The experiences of these Floridians who were denied their opportunity to vote were corroborated by poll workers who testified at the Commission hearing in Miami. Many poll workers attempted to follow the procedures they had been taught in their training, such as verifying voter registration with the supervisor of elections, but their efforts were largely futile because of the inadequacies and obstacles they faced throughout the voting system.
Marilyn Nelson, a poll worker with 15 years of experience in Miami-Dade County, testified, “By far this was the worst election I have ever experienced. After that election I decided I didn’t want to work as a clerk anymore.” At North Dade Elementary School, Precinct 232, she observed several voters who had presented their voter registration cards showing they were properly registered, but the poll workers did not allow them to vote because their names did not appear on the rolls. Ms. Nelson also saw voters with their “orange cards,” which meant that the voter had registered on time and should be allowed to vote, provided that the poll worker could verify the voter’s registration status with the supervisor of elections office. Many of these voters, however, were not permitted to vote because the poll workers could not get through on the phone line to the supervisor’s office.
Maria DeSoto, a poll worker in Palm Beach County, testified that she used her personal cellular phone to call the supervisor of elections office all day, but was only able to get through two or three times over the course of 12 hours. Ms. DeSoto added that if voters’ names did not appear on the rolls, they were not allowed to vote, even if they presented valid identification.
Barbara Phoele, a poll worker in Broward County at Precinct 6C, observed mostly African American and Hispanic voters being turned away because their names did not appear on the rolls. The precinct clerk at her site was unable to get through to the central election office to give affidavits to those voters whose names did not appear. According to Ms. Phoele, the clerk did not communicate with the voters and did nothing to encourage them to vote. In fact, Ms. Phoele noticed later that afternoon that the sign informing voters where they should call if they experienced problems had never been posted. She brought this to the attention of the precinct clerk who explained, “I didn’t have time to put it up.” Ms. Phoele recalled that in past elections it took only about 10 minutes to reach the elections supervisor, but on November 7, 2000, she turned away approximately 40 or 50 people because she could not access the supervisor of elections.
Marvin Rickles, Jr., a deputy at Precinct 74B in Palm Beach County, observed an African American school principal turned away, after waiting for two hours, because her name did not appear on the rolls and poll workers could not reach the supervisor of elections office. She returned to the precinct later that afternoon and was allowed to vote only after she discovered that her name had been misspelled on the rolls.
Millard Suid, a poll worker at the Water Works Department in Boynton Beach, testified he was not able to get through to the office of the supervisor of elections. He recalled helping only one voter over the course of about eight hours. Mr. Suid stated that the precinct deputy estimated that poll workers “[m]ust have turned away maybe 30 or 50 people that could not vote.”
Randall Benston worked as an area chair overseeing three precincts in Broward County. Mr. Benston observed poll workers who were unaware that voters not on the rolls were allowed to fill out affidavits and vote. He eventually persuaded the poll workers to allow voters to fill out affidavits in accordance with Florida election law.
POLLING PLACES CLOSED OR EARLY OR MOVED WITHOUT NOTICE
Many Floridians experienced extreme frustration on November 7 when they reported to the precincts where they had been voting regularly, in some cases for many years, and discovered that their precincts were no longer being used or had moved to another location without notice from the county supervisor of elections. In other instances, some voters who had been standing in line to vote at their precincts prior to 7 p.m. were told that they could not vote because the poll was closed. Under these circumstances, the patience of many Floridians was exhausted.
Polling Places Closed Early
When Lavonna Lewis, an African American first-time voter, went to her polling place to vote, she was told by a white poll worker standing outside that the poll was closed. As she turned to leave, the poll worker allowed a white gentleman to walk in and get in line to vote.
Donnise DeSouza arrived at her assigned precinct at 6:30 p.m., but she could not enter until 6:50 p.m., due to the long line of cars parked on the street waiting to gain access to the polling place. Once Ms. DeSouza was finally able to enter the polling place, she waited for another 10 minutes while poll workers verified her registration status. At 7 p.m., however, the poll workers announced to Ms. DeSouza and about 15 other voters who were waiting to be helped that they could not vote because the poll was closed.
Susan and Joel Newman arrived at the Water Works Department in Palm Beach to vote at approximately 6:15 p.m. Upon their arrival, they noticed:
[T]he iron gates at the entrance were closed, preventing entrance . . . Several cars pulled into the entrance lane and tried to attract attention by honking horns and ringing an intercom. We waited 5–10 minutes but no one showed up and the gates remained locked. We drove off thinking we were wrong about the closing time—that the polls must have closed at 6:00. A few blocks away we spotted a police car and pulled up to check. He verified that the polls were open until 7:00. We complained about the situation we had just experienced and he told us to go to the Board of Elections (some 20 minutes away). We drove there and met a policeman as we entered the building. He listened to our complaint and politely told us there was nothing he could do. We would have to register our complaint with the [supervisor] of elections, Theresa LePore. Unfortunately, he told us her office had closed at 5 p.m. and her staff went home [and] we would have to complain the following day. We left, realizing that we would have no opportunity to vote this year.
Millard Suid, a poll worker at the Water Works Department on John Road in Boynton Beach, confirmed the above poll closing. He explained that the gates to the property are on an automatic timer that shuts them every day at 6:15 p.m. When the automatic timer shut the gates at 6:15 p.m. on Election Day, however, Mr. Suid stated, “It was a disaster. The people at the Water Works Department should have known about it or the people, Theresa LePore, who runs that particular district, should have known about that.” When asked if he called the supervisor of elections to report that the gates had closed, Mr. Suid testified, “That wouldn’t do any good, couldn’t get in. I had called 911 and told the police. Now there was a young lady at the Water Works Department who worked there all day and she left at like 5:30 and she said, ‘I’ll be back at 7:30 to lock up.’ Now she should have known this gate’s going to lock automatically. . . . That wasn’t the first time they used that. So somebody screwed up.”
Robert Weisman, the county administrator for Palm Beach County, stated in a response to an interrogatory issued by the Commission after the February 16, 2001, hearing, that he did not know about the gate-closing incident until the Commission hearing. He further acknowledged that a subsequent investigation by representatives of the supervisor of elections office determined that the gate indeed had closed. Mr. Weisman did not dispute that the automatic locking of the gate blocked access to the Palm Beach County polling place before the official closing.
Polling Places Moved Without Notice
If a supervisor of elections determines that a polling place must be moved, the supervisor must “not more than 30 days or fewer than seven days prior to the holding of an election, give notice of the change.” Such notice is to be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the county, and notices must be mailed to each registered voter at least 14 days prior to the election. In case of an emergency, the supervisor of elections must post a notice at the old polling place advising voters of the new location. Regardless of the reasons for the change, the new polling place must be accessible to all voters and conspicuously identified by a sign. On November 7, 2000, however, these requirements of Florida election law were not strictly followed.
Felix Boyle, a registered voter in Miami-Dade County, described his polling place as a “medieval labyrinth.” There were “sulfuric odors from standing water, orange cones, barriers, deep pits, broken concrete. It was a real problem getting there.” Although Mr. Boyle’s polling place during the primary was very busy, the new location was “deserted” on November 7, 2000. He surmised that the appearance of the site might have resulted in fewer people voting there on Election Day.
NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT: THE MOTOR VOTER LAW
In 1993, Congress enacted the National Voter Registration Act in an effort to increase participation in federal elections. Congress gave states three years to implement its provisions. To implement the act, Florida enacted the Florida Voter Registration Act to “provide the opportunity to register to vote or update a voter registration record to each individual who comes to an office of [the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles]” to apply for or renew a driver’s license, apply for a new identification card, or change an address on an existing driver’s license or identification card. Since the Florida Voter Registration Act was enacted, more than 3,500,000 voter registration applications have been filed. There were 609,389 applications filed with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) in the calendar year 2000.
The DHSMV does not, in fact, register voters; rather, it provides a method for persons to apply to the county supervisors of elections to register while conducting license or identification card transactions. This process is commonly referred to as the “motor voter” process.
In 1995, training for the motor voter process began and was conducted by the Florida Division of Elections. Sandra Lambert, director of the Division of Driver Licenses, described the motor voter process at the Commission’s Miami hearing:
When a customer comes into a driver license office to have any kind of driver license or identification card transaction, all basic information is initially processed. The customer is then asked if they would like to apply to register to vote. If that customer answers in the affirmative all the basic information is transferred from the computer screen on to an additional motor voter screen, so no additional information at that point has to be asked in duplication.
Some additional information does have to be gathered, such as party affiliation, homestead exemption address, [and] a few additional things by law. Once that is completed, the application is printed, it is given to the customer to verify for accuracy, the oath is administered, and the application is signed. If a person declines to apply to register to vote or to change their address, it is so noted on our computer files.
If a person is not in the office, but rather making a transaction by mail, having their renewal done by mail, there is information in that envelope which they receive and an application so that they can make any kind of changes to their voter registration or to make application to vote at that time. All of that information is mailed directly to the local supervisor of elections. And there is a list with all the addresses enclosed in their renewal information.
At the end of each day, in one of our offices, an end-of-the-day motor voter report is compiled, along with all of the applications, and then all of that information is forwarded within five days to the local supervisor of elections. It’s pretty much of an electronic process up until this point, and then forwarded on to the local supervisor of elections.
Despite this effort to increase citizen participation through motor voter registration, problems exist in the implementation of the registration process. Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate, testified, “In this election, thousands of people, not only in Florida, but in other places, who registered at motor voter places, motor vehicle license bureaus, and in social service agencies were not on the rolls when they came to vote.” A poll worker who testified at the Commission’s Miami hearing corroborated this observation:
[T]here were people who had registered to vote through motor voter and somehow their registration was not transmitted to the supervisor of elections office. I saw that with married couples in my own precinct. One person would be registered to vote, the other person would not. The person who was not registered to vote couldn’t vote unless they physically went to the supervisor of elections office and picked up a piece of paper, which they then brought back to me, because we couldn’t reach them on the telephone.
Congresswoman Corrine Brown also noted the failure of proper processing of motor voter registration, stating that “thousands of people went and got their driver’s license, but to this date they did not . . . receive their voter card.”
Despite these allegations, according to Ms. Lambert, the fault should not be assigned to the motor voter registration system set up by Florida. Ms. Lambert testified that although she did “receive a number of complaints after the November election,” she investigated all complaints and “found a variety of reasons why the person was not on the list.” Ms. Lambert asserted that all complaints were resolved, and there was no failure on the part of the DHSMV. In several cases, Ms. Lambert noted, “people said they registered to vote at the motor vehicle office when in fact they had renewed by mail and they had received the application in the mail.” In this instance, the individual is responsible for mailing the form to the applicable supervisor of elections office. In another instance, a voter did, in fact, visit a driver license office; he registered, however, after the closing date and was thus not eligible to vote in the November election.
Finally, according to Ms. Lambert, there were several instances when the supervisor of elections never received the mail. In this instance, a supervisor of elections would call to notify her office of a complaint. Ms. Lambert said her office then “would check and discover that we mailed . . . a batch that day.” If the supervisor of elections office had not received that registration, Ms. Lambert said her office “then recreated that day’s report for the supervisor of elections.” Ms. Lambert claimed, however, that it is the supervisor of elections’ “responsibility then to have to make contact with that customer, or all those people, to get them to be on the rolls.”
Many Floridians alleged that they registered to vote through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and learned later that they were not registered. Many of these disappointed citizens filed complaints with the attorney general’s office and/or the Democratic Party. The following are some examples of individuals who used the motor voter provisions to register, but were denied the right to vote.
Marcia and George Seamans of Boynton Beach registered to vote at the DHSMV on two occasions and were told at the polls that their names were not on the voter rolls. While at the DHSMV to obtain their driver’s licenses, they were asked to register to vote. They were directed to fill out a separate registration application and, upon its completion, were told they were registered. When they went to the polling place, however, their names were not on the rolls. When the poll worker called the central office to verify their registration status, they learned that their names were not on the central voter file, and they were not allowed to vote.
In response to the Commission’s interrogatory regarding the Seamans’ registration, Ms. Lambert stated that the Division of Driver Licenses’ records confirmed that Mr. and Mrs. Seamans submitted their voter registration applications at the time of obtaining their driver’s licenses. The division’s records also indicated that their voter registration applications and the transmittal reports were forwarded to the applicable supervisor of elections office. Ms. Lambert, however, was not able to explain the status of their voter registration. She reiterated that all voter registration applications and transmittal reports are forwarded to the supervisor of elections within five days of receipt. With regard to the Seamans, Ms. Lambert explained that voter registration applications are forwarded to Palm Beach County by U.S. mail and that copies of the applications are not maintained in their field driver license offices due to confidentiality. Based on this response, it is impossible to determine whether the voter registration applications were actually transmitted to the supervisor of elections office or whether that office misplaced the applications once they were received. Nevertheless, Mr. and Mrs. Seamans properly registered to vote at their driver license office and were deprived of their right to vote on Election Day.
Bill Zannie of Palm Beach County registered to vote at the DHSMV when he went to obtain his Florida driver’s license. He requested a confirmation to ensure that he was registered to vote. The DHSMV staff assured him that he was registered. He did not, however, obtain a confirmation. When he went to vote on the day of the election, he was told that his name was not on the voter rolls. He also learned that there was no record of his registration. Since he registered to vote at a governmental agency, he assumed he was registered properly and to his disappointment, he was not registered.
When asked about the voter registration status of Mr. Zannie, Sandra Lambert responded that according to the division’s electronic transaction file for December 7, 1998, the date Mr. Zannie obtained his driver’s license for the first time in Florida, the record indicated that he was currently registered to vote; therefore, DHSMV staff did not forward any forms to the supervisor of elections. According to Mr. Zannie, December 7, 1998, was the first time he had obtained a driver’s license in Florida and was the first time he requested to register to vote in the state of Florida. Because the Division of Driver Licenses’ records indicated that he was already registered, it took no action to register him to vote.
Ms. Lambert explained in an answer to the Commission’s interrogatory that in the two times that Mr. Zannie moved in Florida and changed his address on his driver’s license, his identification card/voter registration application indicated that he was currently registered to vote, raising another serious issue. The fact that Mr. Zannie changed his address twice in Florida and the driver license office file seemed to be current indicates that his voter registration should have also reflected his change in address. However, the driver license office failed to forward these address change forms to the local supervisor of elections office despite Mr. Zannie’s repeated requests.
Maria DeSoto, a poll worker in Palm Beach County, testified that many eligible voters who registered through the DHSMV found their registrations were not transmitted to the supervisor of elections office. She witnessed a couple that registered together at the DHSMV but only one person’s name was on the voter rolls on Election Day.
The testimony of the witnesses who experienced problems voting after they had applied with the Division of Driver Licenses seems to run counter to contentions made by Ms. Lambert that its motor voter registration process is “very simple” and “very good.” Despite some voters being disenfranchised by failures in the motor voter process, the division nevertheless maintains that it should not be blamed for the numbers of citizens who were deprived of their right to vote on Election Day.
Florida voters had various absentee ballot related complaints. The Commission heard testimony alleging there was an effort by organized groups to encourage their constituents to vote absentee for the November election. In other instances, voters complained that they had requested absentee ballots, but never received them. Still other voters complained that when they went to the polling place, they were denied ballots because the election records indicated they were sent absentee ballots. And some voters said they received absentee ballots even though they never requested them.
At the Tallahassee hearing, Alvin Peters, an attorney from Panama City, testified that Governor Bush sent out a letter encouraging selected citizens to vote by mail. Mr. Peters claimed that this “vote by mail letter” offered selected citizens the opportunity to vote by mail, which is not allowed in Florida. He further pointed out the letter had the seal of the state of Florida and was signed by Governor Bush.
Governor Bush disagreed with the above characterization of the letter referred to by Mr. Peters. He indicated to the Commission that the letter did not bear the current state seal, but rather the state seal as it first appeared in 1868.
Following Mr. Peters’ testimony and presentation of his supporting documents, Moya Burgess responded with outrage. She explained, “It makes me sick to think that . . . our governor basically sent out an infomercial to his party.” She added that she is registered with “the other party” and she never received any information from the governor. In Ms. Burgess’ opinion, this letter should have been addressed to all voters.
POLICE PRESENCE AT OR NEAR POLLING SITES
Several Florida voters reported seeing Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers in and around polling places. Troopers conducted an unauthorized vehicle checkpoint within a few miles of a polling place in a predominantly African American neighborhood. In another area, trooper vehicles were reportedly parked within sight of at least two polling places, which one resident characterized as “unusual.” The FHP reported that troopers only visited polling places to vote on Election Day. In light of the high voter turnout that was expected during the 2000 presidential election, particularly among communities of color that may have a strained relationship with law enforcement, some Floridians questioned the timing of and the motivation for the FHP’s actions.
The Florida Election Code provides:
No person, whether acting under color of law or otherwise, shall intimidate, threaten, or coerce, or attempt to intimidate, threaten or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or not to vote as that person may choose.
The state of Florida also restricts the presence of law enforcement officers at polling places. Specifically, unless he or she enters the polling place to cast a ballot, no law enforcement officer may enter a polling place without the permission of the clerk or a majority of the inspectors. The clerk or inspectors are required to make an affidavit for the arrest of any law enforcement officer who does not comply with the law. Sheriffs also have a duty under Florida election law to “exercise strict vigilance in the detection of any violations of the election laws and in apprehending the violators.”
Charles Hall, director of the Florida Highway Patrol, testified at the Commission’s Tallahassee hearing. He explained that the history of increased checkpoints by the FHP began in the early 1980s, when the vehicle inspection laws were repealed. The FHP determined that the most effective way to inspect a large number of vehicles was through driver’s license/faulty vehicle equipment checkpoints. He also noted that he had no conversations with the office of the governor, the office of the attorney general, or the office of the secretary of state in preparation for the 2000 presidential election.
Colonel Hall admitted that on November 7, 2000, the FHP established a checkpoint on Oak Ridge Road in Southern Leon County between the hours of 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The demographic makeup of the precincts surrounding the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint are as follows: (1) Precinct 107 is 82 percent Caucasian and 13 percent African American; (2) Precinct 109 is 37 percent Caucasian and 57 percent African American; and (3) Precinct 110 is 70 percent Caucasian and 24 percent African American. Approximately 150 vehicles were stopped as a result of the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint that day. According to FHP records, of the 16 citizens who received notices of faulty equipment, six (37 percent) were people of color.
On the afternoon of Election Day, the FHP received notice of a complaint to the attorney general’s office that FHP troopers had hindered people of color from arriving at polling places due to the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint. Colonel Hall indicated that “the FHP was the first statewide law enforcement agency in the county to voluntarily begin collecting data concerning traffic stops in response to the racial profiling issue.” The racial breakdown of the 150 drivers stopped at that checkpoint on Election Day, however, is not available.
As a result of its investigation, the FHP found that some policy violations had occurred, but concluded that no citizen was unreasonably delayed or prohibited from voting as a result of the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint. The policy violations cited by FHP’s investigators included the fact that the checkpoint site was not on the monthly preapproved list and the media notification policy was not followed. The investigators recommended “counseling” for the sergeant in charge of the checkpoint and the district commander in charge of the media notification.
Colonel Hall stated the FHP was “very concerned about the perception people may have about what the patrol did that day.” The Commission heard testimony from voters in Tallahassee regarding their reaction to the FHP’s actions on Election Day. Roberta Tucker, an African American woman and a longtime resident of Tallahassee, was driving along Oak Ridge Road on her way to vote. Before Ms. Tucker could reach her polling place, she was stopped at an FHP vehicle checkpoint conducted by approximately five white troopers. According to Ms. Tucker, the checkpoint was located at the only main road leading to her assigned polling place. One of the troopers approached Ms. Tucker’s car, asked for her driver’s license, and after looking at it, returned it to her and allowed her to proceed. Ms. Tucker considered the trooper’s actions to be “suspicious” because “nothing was checked, my lights, signals, or anything that [the state patrol] usually check.” She also recalled being “curious” about the checkpoint because she had never seen a checkpoint at this location. Ms. Tucker added that she felt “intimidated” because “it was an Election Day and it was a big election and there were only white officers there and like I said, they didn’t ask me for anything else, so I was suspicious at that.”
In response to the allegations of voter intimidation surrounding this checkpoint, Colonel Hall stated that “the checkpoint was properly conducted, and it was not anywhere near a polling facility, and I don’t see how that could affect anybody’s ability to vote.” He added that he was “not really” surprised to learn that a trooper may have asked for a driver’s license and not registration. He explained that such an action could occur if vehicles had begun to back up. Moreover, Colonel Hall stated he was “disappointed” that the FHP could not speak with Ms. Tucker because she refused to cooperate with their investigation. Ms. Tucker testified, however, that she reported the incident to her local NAACP and never returned the FHP’s calls because “I felt it was a civil rights issue . . . I felt like it was sort of discriminatory.”
When John Nelson, an African American resident of Jefferson County in Tallahassee, went to his assigned polling place, Precinct 6, to vote, he saw an unoccupied FHP vehicle parked across the street. He considered this to be “unusual” because he has voted a number of times at the same precinct, but was not accustomed to seeing a law enforcement vehicle at the precinct. Moreover, Mr. Nelson stated he did not see any FHP troopers voting inside the precinct or leaving the precinct. Mr. Nelson added that his precinct is usually frequented by a large number of African American voters. The FHP vehicle’s presence piqued Mr. Nelson’s curiosity, and after voting, he drove to a precinct in the downtown area on North Washington Street and saw another FHP vehicle parked outside the precinct.
In response to Mr. Nelson’s allegations, Colonel Hall explained that those troopers only visited polling places to vote, and no parking tickets were written in the parking lots of voting precincts. He added that law enforcement personnel use a service station close to the polling place, which may have explained their presence. Furthermore, according to Colonel Hall, the FHP has “no policy that specifically excludes polling places from any law enforcement function.” There is also no FHP policy against troopers wearing their uniforms or using their vehicles while voting at any election. At the request of supervisors of elections, the FHP has assisted in traffic control at polling places in the past, but the FHP received no such request for the November 2000 election.
Florida Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth summarized his position on the use of law enforcement checkpoints on Election Day:
What we do know is that a checkpoint on that date, Election Day, was absolutely not necessary for law enforcement purposes and similar checkpoints should never again be implemented on Election Day . . . No law enforcement barriers should be placed on Florida’s roadways when people are going to and from voting.
Regardless of the motivation for the Florida Highway Patrol’s actions on Election Day, it appears that a number of voters perceived, at minimum, that they were negatively affected by the proximity of law enforcement officers to the precincts around Tallahassee.
A wide variety of concerns have been raised regarding the use and effectiveness of Florida’s voting system controls during the 2000 presidential election. Many Floridians were denied their opportunity to vote, in what proved to be a historic general election because of the narrow vote margin separating the candidates. Some voters were turned away from their designated polling places because their names did not appear on the lists of registered voters. Other voters discovered that their precincts were no longer being used or had moved to another location, without notice from the supervisor of elections office. In other instances, voters who had been standing in line to vote at their precincts prior to closing, were told that they could not vote because the poll was closed. In addition, thousands of voters who had registered at motor vehicle licensing offices were not on the rolls when they came to vote. The Commission also heard from several voters who saw Florida Highway Patrol troopers
in and around polling places, while other troopers conducted an unauthorized vehicle checkpoint within a few miles of a polling place in a predominantly African American neighborhood.
Commission’s investigation demonstrated an urgent need for attention to this
Florida’s state and local officials, particularly as it relates to the implementation of statewide election reforms. Without some effective redress, the pervasive problems that surfaced in the 2000 election will be repeated.
The Federalist No. 57 (James
Numerous complaints received by the attorney general’s office and the
Florida Democratic Party confirm that voters were turned away from their
precincts. See “Complaints Received by Attorney General’s Office,”
Bates Nos. 0008948, 0009170, 0009173, 0009279.
Ava Zamites of Tampa waited for one and a half hours but could not get
through to the supervisor of elections office. “Complaint Received by
Attorney General’s Office,” Bates No. 0009277. In another instance, when
Lynette Johnson was told that her name was not on the voter list, poll
workers attempted to call the supervisor of elections office. When they
could not get through for an hour, she had to return to work. She continued
to call on her own with no success. “Complaint Received by Attorney
General’s Office,” Bates No. 0009882.
Cathy Jackson, Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Miami,
FL, Feb. 16, 2001, Verified Transcript, pp. 80–87. Ms. Jackson explained
that her polling place’s building was being used by two different “districts,”
which apparently refer to precincts. Ms. Jackson belonged to the first,
while the elderly white voter belonged to the second. Ibid.
Donnise DeSouza Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 54–58.
Angenora Ramsey Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 87–96.
Margarita Green Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 65–68.
The supervisor of elections for Miami-Dade, however, provided a form signed
by a Margarita C. Green purporting to indicate that she no longer lived in
Miami-Dade County. Mrs. Green does not recall signing any such form. David
Leahy, supervisor of elections, Miami-Dade County, letter to Edward A.
Hailes, Jr., general counsel, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, June 1, 2001,
R. Jai Howard, Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,
Tallahassee, FL, Jan. 11, 2001, Verified Transcript, p. 84. Florida A&M
University houses a voting precinct on its campus.
Marilyn Nelson Testimony, poll worker, Precinct 232 in Miami-Dade County,
Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 129–38.
Maria Desoto Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p. 142.
Barbara Phoele Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 126–27,
136, 156. Ms. Phoele eventually posted the sign herself. Ibid., pp. 126–27.
Marvin Rickles, Jr., Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p.
Millard Suid Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 123,
Randall Benston, precinct area chair, Precincts 6Z, 5Z, and 7B, Broward
County, Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p. 457. See
chap. 7 (Florida law does permit an individual to be issued a ballot in
limited circumstances, upon execution of an affidavit).
John McGuire of Pinellas County, for example, complained that his polling
place, Precinct 509, moved without prior notice. See “Complaint
Received by Attorney General’s Office,” Nov. 8, 2000, Bates No. 0009246.
Denise Ballard of Palm Beach County observed poll workers turn away voters
at her precinct at 7 p.m., even though they had been in line prior to 7 p.m.
See “Complaint Received by Attorney General’s Office,” Bates
No. 0009778. Similarly, Ted Dominick of Broward County complained that he
arrived at the poll at 6:55 p.m. and was turned away. See “Complaint
Received by Attorney General’s Office,” Bates No. 0009253.
Lavonna Lewis Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 102–06.
Donnise DeSouza Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 54–56.
Susan Newman, affidavit submitted to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, Jan.
31, 2001, p. 3.
Millard Suid Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p. 123.
Robert Weisman, county administrator, Palm Beach County, Response to
Commission’s Interrogatory 1, Apr. 11, 2001, p. 2.
Fla. Stat. ch. 101.71(2)
See Complaint of John McGuire of Pinellas County, “Complaints
Received by Attorney General’s Office,” Nov. 8, 2000, Bates No. 0009246.
Felix Boyle Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 78–79,
90–91. Photographs of Mr. Boyle’s polling place are attached as app.
42 U.S.C. § 1973 (1988).
Attempts to enact legislation to allow individuals to register to vote
during driver’s license registration date back to the 1970s. In 1992,
President George Bush vetoed a “motor voter” bill. In 1993, the National
Voter Registration Act was passed, despite severe opposition. Those opposing
the motor voter registration regulation maintained that it unjustly
interfered with state sovereignty—even for federal elections—and imposed
unreasonable costs on states.
Fla. Stat. ch. 97.032 (1999).
Fla. Stat. ch. 97.057 (1999).
Fla. Stat. ch. 97.057(1)(a)
Sandra Lambert, director, Division of Driver Licenses, Testimony, Miami
Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 172–73. Ms. Lambert testified, “Of
the seven organizations that do take applications, the Division of Driver
Licenses has taken approximately 45 percent of all applications.” The
testimony of Ms. Lambert regarding the dramatic increase in voter
registration in the state of Florida was echoed by a member of the Election
Canvassing Commission. See Robert Crawford, commissioner of
agriculture, Testimony before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights,
Tallahassee, FL, Jan. 12, 2001, Verified Transcript, p. 186.
Sandra Lambert, director, Division of Driver Licenses, letter to Edward A.
Hailes, Jr., Mar. 14, 2001, p. 1. The division has a disciplinary system for
employees who violate requirements of the motor voter process. Records
indicate that in the year 2000 two employees received counseling, six
employees received oral reprimands, and one employee received a written
reprimand regarding violations of agency procedures for the motor voter
Sandra Lambert Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 173–75.
Curtis Gans Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 11, 2001, p.
Maria Desoto, poll worker, Palm Beach County, Testimony, Miami Verified
Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p. 146.
Corrine Brown Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, p.
Sandra Lambert Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p. 231.
Ibid., p. 232.
Ibid., p. 231.
Ibid., p. 232.
Marcia Seamans Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 110–13.
Sandra Lambert, director, Division of Driver Licenses, Response to
Commission’s Interrogatory 1–4, Apr. 16, 2001, pp. 3–5.
Bill Zannie Testimony, Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, pp. 466–71.
Sandra Lambert, director, Division of Driver Licenses, Response to
Commission’s Interrogatory 5–6, Apr. 16, 2001, pp. 5–6.
Maria DeSoto Testimony Miami Verified Transcript, Feb. 16, 2001, p. 46.
Alvin Peters Testimony Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, p.
See app. VI, Charles T. Canady, general counsel, Office of the
Governor for the State of Florida, letter to Edward A. Hailes, Jr., June 6,
2001, p. 6.
Moya Burgess Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, p.
Fla. Stat. ch. 104.0515(3)
Fla. Stat. ch. 102.101 (1999).
Fla. Stat. ch. 102.091 (1999).
Charles Hall Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, p.
119. Colonel Hall said, “Motorists who approach one of these checkpoints
can expect to have their license, registration, insurance papers, tires,
brake lights, and other safety equipment examined. And those with vehicles
in good working order and have all their required paperwork normally will be
delayed for less than a minute.” Ibid.
Ibid., pp. 119–20. In addition to the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint, the FHP
established checkpoints in Bay and Escambia counties on November 7,
Ibid., p. 145.
Ibid., pp. 178–79. Colonel Hall added that the district commander, Captain
Speers, did a “post survey of [the area surrounding the checkpoint] and
out of the 100 cars that he checked during that period of time, I believe it
was 82 percent were white . . . 18 percent minority in that area.” Ibid.,
Ibid., p. 32.
Ibid., p. 121. Colonel Hall was unable to confirm if the conversation with
the attorney general’s office was memorialized in any way other than in
the FHP’s investigative report of the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint. Ibid., p.
Ibid. Colonel Hall referenced Florida Highway Patrol Policy Manual Section
17.07. According to Colonel Hall, the Oak Ridge Road checkpoint appeared on
previous approved lists, but he did not believe the media notification
procedures were avoided in order to prevent protests from civil rights
organizations. Ibid., pp. 179–80.
Colonel Hall further clarified that the counseling received by the troopers
did not constitute a formal reprimand. Ibid., p. 141.
Ibid., p. 140.
Roberta Tucker Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 11, 2001,
Ibid., p. 37.
Charles Hall Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, p.
Ibid., p. 137.
Ibid., p. 142.
Roberta Tucker Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 11, 2001,
John Nelson Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 11, 2001, pp.
Ibid., p. 28. Mr. Nelson added that for the first time in his voting
experience at his precinct, rather than simply showing his voter
registration card, he was asked for two pieces of identification, which he
considered to be “unusual.” Ibid., p. 29.
Ibid., p. 28.
Charles Hall, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, pp. 147–48.
Ibid., p. 148.
Ibid., p. 143.
Ibid., pp. 143–44.
 Robert A. Butterworth Testimony, Tallahassee Verified Transcript, Jan. 12, 2001, p. 199. Attorney General Butterworth also testified: “Therefore, I have prepared the legislation that I am forwarding to the Florida legislature that would prevent routine safety traffic checkpoints on Election Days anywhere within the state of Florida. There would be exceptions for roadblocks dictated by fleeing felons or other extreme circumstances.” Ibid.