Discarded felon list leaves many questions behind

Michael Thomas does not know whether he will vote Nov. 2.

Thomas is a convicted felon, who has not had his rights restored.

However, he has a voter’s registration card, which he received in September, from the Leon County Supervisor of Elections office.

In the state of Florida, convicted felons cannot vote unless they have been granted their rights.

So how did Thomas receive a voter’s registration card?

“Thomas’s name may have not been on the felon list for 2004,” City Commissioner Andrew Gillum said.

“His name may have appeared on the felon list in the year that he received his conviction.”

Gillum said the names on the felon list for 2004 contained names of felons from 2002-2004.

“If he did not commit a felony in that period, his name would not be on the list to stop him from voting or from receiving a voter’s registration card,” Gillum explained.

“There is no database for us to check to see who is a felon or not,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho.

“We don’t know how many felons have voter’s registration cards, and there really is no way for us to check.”

“Because Florida’s felon list was thrown out in May 2004, we cannot decide who or who is not a felon and is not allowed to vote,” he said.

Those people whose names would have still been on the felon list may be able to vote.

Sancho said if a felon whose name was on the list has a voter’s registration card, he or she can vote.

But there are some people who do not think this is a good idea.

“Convicted felons in the state of Florida cannot vote,” Gillum said.

“If a convicted felon votes, he or she can be convicted and jailed for voting fraud.”

Sancho said Florida released its felon list earlier this year.

Gillum said when the list was first released, it was not open to the media because it was inaccurate.

After numerous lawsuits from different media, a court decision allowed the list to be viewed by the media.

Gillum said the media could not make copies of the list or take notes from it. Gillum and Sancho both said the list is now null and void because it was inaccurate.

According to an article in the October 2004 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, there were more than 50,000 names placed on Florida’s felon list during the 2000 election.

Of the 50,000 names 20,000 of them were inaccurate. On this year’s list, 800 of the 27,000 names of suspected felons were inaccurate.

Since the list was released and thrown out, 19 names have been cleared, meaning those people were found to have either not been a felon at all or were a felon who had their rights restored.

As for Thomas, he says he is still confused.

“I want to vote. I need to vote, but I don’t want to end up back in jail,” Thomas said.

Contact LaKeisha Troutman at troutman1l@yahoo.com.