Florida Concocts Signature Test to Purge Democratic Voters

May 30 2012 Published by under Featured News

While voter suppression is nothing new, Rick Scott has taken it to the extreme with a variety of measures ranging from restricting registration, to voter purging and a signatures please law.  Among the people, the people on Scott’s list of ineligible voters is a World War II veteran.

The restrictions on voter registration have clearly had the results Rick Scott wants.  As NPR reports:

Because of those rules, and their potential penalties, the League of Women Voters and some other groups have stopped conducting voter registration drives in Florida. The League is challenging the rules in federal court, but in the meantime, few nonpartisan groups aside from NCLR are registering voters in the state.

The purpose of the voter purge is to eliminate non-citizens from the voter rolls to solve the non-existent problem of voter fraud.

Many citizens under Florida’s voter suppression laws have been erroneously identified as Non-Citizens based on the very issues that excluded people erroneously tagged as felons in 2004.

The effort to purge felons was also been over inclusive and disproportionately targets Hispanics, as reflected in the New York Times report in 2004.

 Florida election officials used a flawed method to come up with a listing of people believed to be convicted felons, a list that they are recommending be used to purge voter registration rolls, state officials acknowledged yesterday. As a result, voters identifying themselves as Hispanic are almost completely absent from that list.

As Think Progress reports, the same flawed information used today to exclude non-citizens is just as flawed resulting in the purge of 180,000 of eligible voters. For Miami-Dade County alone:

1638 people in Miami-Dade County were flagged by the state as “non-citizens” and sent letters informing them that they were ineligible to vote.

– Of that group, 359 people have subsequently provided the county with proof of citizenship.

– Another 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county.

– The bulk of the remaining 1200 people have simply not responded yet to a letter sent to them by the Supervisor of Elections.

One person who was purged in the way of preventing non-Citizens from voting is Maureen Russo.

Maureen Russo was born in Akron, Ohio. For the last 40 years she’s operated a dog boarding and grooming business — Bobbi’s World Kennels — with her husband in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Maureen is 60 years old and has been a registered voter in the state for the last four decades. She regularly votes at the church around the corner from her home.

Under Scott’s purge the vote law, Russo like others erroneously tagged as non-Citizens, must request “an administrative hearing to present evidence”, which she did immediately upon receipt of the notice.  This was on May 13th, as shown in the document below, courtesy of Think Progress.

The Scott regime’s big purge also netted a WWII vet. According to the Bellingham Herald

Sitting in the retirement village in Davie where he lives, 91-year-old Bill Internicola listened Tuesday as Deutch read from a piece of his recent mail:

“The Broward County Supervisor of Elections Office has received information from the state of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote.”

Even if you survive seriously flawed basis by which Florida is purging people from the rolls, you still need to contend with the signatures please law.

This law requires voters to register their signatures with the government because signatures change with age.

This is further explained by Polk Country’s Supervisor for Elections website in the FAQ section:

 Question: How do I update my signature with the Elections Office?  

Answer: It’s Easy! Just download this form (click here), check the “signature update” box, complete the name and date of birth boxes, and mail the form to Supervisor of Elections, P.O. Box 1460, Bartow, FL 33830. If you’re unable to download the form, just send us a letter with your name, date of birth and signature. Mention that this is a signature update.

Question: Why should I update my signature? 

Answer: Florida law requires the Canvass Board compare your signature on your absentee ballot envelope to the signature on file with the Supervisor of Elections office. This verification process protects you from attempted voter fraud. If the signature on file is old, or your signature has changed, an updated signature will help the Canvass Board verify your identity.

To be fair, there are some experts, such as David A. Katz  who give credence to the idea that signatures change as we get older.

Handwritng (sic) is unique to each individual. Although some peoples’ handwriting may have similar styles and characteristics in common, acquired when these people learned to write by copying letters and words, they tend to take on individual styles with age. Also, as a person ages, their handwriting will show additional changes.

The problem is handwriting can also change for a variety of other reasons, which could occur after you have registered your signature.

Let’s say you use reading glasses for any number of possible vision impairments. Your reading glasses are broken a day or two before you vote. Try signing something without them.  I’ll bet the likelihood that your signature will look a bit different.

What if you broke your arm or if you have a hand injury?

I’m not an expert at handwriting analysis, but I suspect that if your writing hand is in a cast, or you have sustained a recent hand injury, your signature might look a little different from the one the Scott Regime has on file.

Moreover, let’s consider who will be deciding IF your signature matches the one on file.  I’m guessing the same people who have done such an awesome job in the battle of nonexistent voter fraud so far will also be assessing your signature.  Will they have the training needed to assess whether your signature is a match with the one on file with the Scott regime?

Assessing signatures is more complicated than it sounds; beginning with the fact that handwriting analysis requires training in factors that most of us, including me, lack the expertise to assess.

Moreover, there are other factors that can result in signatures that are inconsistent with the one filed under the “signatures please” law.

As noted in an article by handwriting expert, Sheila R. Rowe  there is science to support the premise that each person’s handwriting is unique.  However, there are factors, beyond someone’s control that could result in altered handwriting, or at least writing that appears to be less than genuine.

“Once graphic maturity has been reached – in other words, once a child has learned how to write – writing becomes a natural act, acquired over time. It is no longer necessary to stop and think about each stroke and how to get it right.
Unless there is a physiological or psychological problem, genuine handwriting is usually smooth,spontaneous, and free-flowing, with less focus on the movement and more on the content. (my bold)

In addition, the ability to detect match on simplified signatures is more complex.

A signature that’s simplified to a squiggly line can be problematic, as there is just not sufficient complexity on which to base an identification; thus, a signature written as a squiggle is the easiest to forge due to the lack of clear forms. The clearer a signature is, the harder it is to create a successful forgery.

In other words, the signatures please law, especially when those assessing the signatures are untrained or inadequately trained, has the potential to preclude eligible voters from voting.

So if the restrictions on registering to vote doesn’t get you, and you haven’t been purged from the voter rolls based on a combination of flawed information and the Scott Administration’s unwillingness or inability to schedule an evidentiary hearing to get your voting rights reinstated, it could still be for naught because someone who is not trained in handwriting analysis could erroneously conclude that your signature doesn’t match the one on file.

How much do you think the possibility of denying the vote to eligible voters really bothers Rick Scott and other Republican governors? Chances are if the voters in question vote Republican the answer is yes.  However, the voter suppression laws disproportionately affect people more likely to vote Democrat.

Measures like Rick Scott’s do have an adverse effect on participation in the political process beginning with the use of knowingly flaw information to determine who is an American citizen and who is not.  In Rick Scott’s Florida, the onus is on you to prove you are a citizen.

Nothing good can come from using flawed information to screen out ineligible voters in the name of eliminating the non-existent problem of voter fraud.  It does however, have the potential to compromise the electoral process, as some will argue occurred in 2004. You may recall that George W. Bush won Florida with around five hundred votes.  In Miami-Dade County alone, over 1,000 people were purged from the voter rolls.  The math is obvious.

This has nothing to do with eliminating voter fraud, it is more consistent with wanting to perpetrating a fraud on the democratic process in favor of the Republican Party by precluding people most likely to vote democrat from voting at all.

I won’t go so far as to say that this is about establishing a single party political system. It does have the potential to establishing a system in which there is the sort of single party rule that one associates with authoritarian societies.

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