Report: Jeb Bush Ignored Felon List Advice

Editorial

Loa Angeles Times

October 17, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ignored advice to throw out a flawed felon voter list before it went out to county election offices despite warnings from state officials, according to a published report Saturday.

In a May 4 e-mail obtained by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Florida Department of Law Enforcement computer expert Jeff Long told his boss that a Department of State computer expert had told him "that yesterday they recommended to the Gov that they 'pull the plug'" on the voter database.

The e-mail said state election officials "weren't comfortable with the felon matching program they've got," but added, "The Gov rejected their suggestion to pull the plug, so they're 'going live' with it this weekend."

Long, who was responsible for giving elections officials his department's felon database, confirmed the contents of the e-mail Friday to the Herald-Tribune. He said he didn't remember the specifics, but that Paul Craft, the Department of State's top computer expert, had told him about the m eeting with Bush.

A software program matched data on felons with voter registration rolls to create the list of 48,000 names. Secretary of State Glenda Hood junked the database in July after acknowledging that 2,500 ex-felons on the list had had their voting rights restored.

Most were Democrats, and many were black. Hispanics, who often vote Republican in Florida, were almost entirely absent from the list due to a technical error.

Bush's spokeswoman, Jill Bratina, denied allegations that the governor ignored warnings about the list.

"It's also irrelevant because the list isn't being used," Bratina said Saturday.

Bush told the Herald-Tribune that Craft didn't call him, and he denied that any meeting took place May 3 with Craft or other election officials.

"Once it became clear after talking to the secretary of state that there were problems with the list (in July), that's when we decided to end it," Bush said.

Craft hung up on a Herald-Tribune reporter se eking comment Friday. A message left for a Paul Craft in Tallahassee was not immediately returned Saturday.

U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, the Florida chairman of Democratic Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign, said the report shows the extent Bush will go to ensure his brother's re-election.

"Jeb Bush and the Bush campaign need to come clean about their involvement in this sad spectacle," Meek said.

Florida is one of few states that does not automatically restore voting rights to convicted felons when they complete their sentences. Purging felons from voter rolls has been a hot-button issue since the 2000 presidential election, when many citizens discovered at the polls they weren't allowed to vote.

Election officials have said that anyone who feels they have been inadvertently removed from the voter rolls on Nov. 2 will be allowed to use a provisional ballot that will be examined later to determine eligibility.