The so-called "no-match" law could force thousands of new voters to cast provisional ballots on Election Day because they didn't clear up a mis-match between their voter registration and their driver-license or social-security numbers.
Except in Pinellas County. At least for now. Miami-Dade could follow suit.
Pinellas' election supervisor, Deborah Clark, has been training poll workers to allow mis-match voters in many cases to clear up their data problem at the Election Day or early voting polling site. The poll worker would examine the driver license, phone in the information to Clark's downtown office for a check and, if all the numbers match, then allow the no-longer-mis-match voter to cast a regular ballot on the spot.
This appears to be contrary to the law, but there doesn't appear to be a penalty. The law says that "if the applicant has not provided the necessary evidence or the number has not otherwise been verified prior to the applicant presenting himself or herself to vote, the applicant shall be provided a provisional ballot."
After casting a provisional balot, the voter would then have to furnish his information to the supervisor's office within two days after Election Day. Clark, like Miami-Dade's Lester Sola, and groups like the Florida Voters Coalition, say that's a pain for the voter. They say it only makes sense to empower poll workers to clear up the issue at the polling station they already check IDs anyway - and since many mis-match problems are the result of data-entry errors by clerks typing in a voter's information into the state's databases.
“We feel the voter isn’t in error and we don’t want to penalize them. Whether it was error on our part or the state’s part - maybe a hyphenated name that wasn’t typed in - we think many of these cases aren’t the voters fault," said Clark's spokeswoman Nancy Whitlock.
In Miami-Dade, Sola has asked the state for clarification. He at least wants the ability for poll workers to cure mis-matches at Early Voting sites. But the state's Division of Elections says the law is pretty clear: The mis-match can't be dealt with at the polls. Still, its lawyers are checking. But division spokeswoman Jennifer Krell Davis said the problem with Clark's method is that it could create a fractured election system where the law is applied differently in different counties.
(And already, there's enough confusion with all the Election Day rumors swirling around. More here on that.)
"We're trying to creat uniformity," Davis said. "Since Election Day is still in the future, we could have full discussions about what the law is...We don’t have any direct authority and we're trying to figure out what the ramifications will be. We're learning this is just possibility, and it's just a possibility right now.... We don’t think the Department of State would hve the power to authorize them (supervisors) to do this."