Secretary of State Kurt Browning, along with other U.S. elections officials wrapped up their last trip overseas to visit the troops, took a few calls from the press today and tried to clear up a few rumors and pledge that the state of the state's election system is sound.
The untrue rumors (redundant?): That any voter's I.D. must match a driver license exactly (it doesn't. The signatures must match); that new registrants whose IDs don't match their driver license can't vote (they can, by provisional ballot); that voters can't wear campaign T-shirts to the polls.
Browning said the number of rumors "may be hyped up this year" because there's no incumbent and because "Florida is still in the shadows of 2000, which just disgusts me. People out there believe Florida is not going to get it right. And I vehemently disagree with them."
Browning mentioned the vote-registration group ACORN, which he generally likes, in criticizing the purveyors of bad information, specifically as it relates to the so-called "no-match" law for new voters.
"The ironic thing about this is, is that the very people that are creating the rumors or perpetuating the rumors are the very ones that are scaring away their voters from going to the polls to vote. It's one of the durndest things I've ever seen. I don't know why they would go out there and continue spreading these types of rumors because it would be their voters allegedly that would not be going to the polls because 'My gosh, if my driver's license doesn't match my voter registration, they're not going to let me vote. I don't want to be embarassed'..."
"These folks will slap a T shirt on them (new voters), you know... Obama shirts or McCain shirts or whatever. And then they start these rumors: 'You can't go in. You're not going to be able to vote.' It doesn't make any sense to me. How it happens. Why it happens.
One rumor floating around: That the Department of Defense, which organized the trip, is using Browning (appointed by Republican Gov. Charlie Crist) and other election officials to drum up more military votes to help the Republican candidate.
Browning, a 30-year elections official, took exception to that. "They're wrong. They're absolutely wrong. I'm not partisan. I'm fair. I don't care what political party you are, I just want you to have the opportunity to cast a ballot," Browning said.
"My purpose over here is not to drum up more votes for Republicans," he said, noting that soldiers should have the right to vote easily and election officials should see the hurdles they face.