Databases, Felons, and Voting: Errors and Bias in the Florida Felons Exclusion List in the 2000 Presidential Elections
66 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2002
Date Written: September 2002
This paper examines the production and use of the exclusion lists by the state, its private sector contractor, Database Technologies (DBT), and Florida's 67 counties between 1998 and the 2000 elections. It places the exclusion lists in the context of the social and political structure of the United States and the State of Florida, and interprets its significance within that context. I provide a detailed accounting of the contents of the lists, identify ways in which the lists reveal weaknesses in Florida's voter list maintenance procedures up to 2000, and identify the types of errors made and biases in the production and use of the lists. The three major findings of the analysis are: a) the 2000 felons' exclusion list had a considerable number of errors in it, probably more than 25% of the names on the list were on there in error; b) these errors were racially biased, such that more African-American registered voters were on the list in error than either Whites or Latinos; and c) that the decentralized process by which the felons' list was used to purge the voter rolls resulted in a sometimes judicious but sometimes partisan purging process - Democratic county supervisors were less likely to use the felons' list than Republican county supervisors, but even the latter found considerable, biased errors in the list.
Keywords: Crime and Criminal Justice, Human Rights, Political Science
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By Alec Ewald