Elections supervisor: DMV glitch kept people from voting

- Dozens of voters in the Tampa Bay area claim their party registration was switched without their knowledge, and it prevented them from casting ballots in the statewide primary in March.

Voters like Jason Brooks say they're certain they registered as Democrats or Republicans before the deadline, but received a surprise when they tried to vote in the closed primary.

"We checked all the boxes, crossed all the T's, dotted all the I's…I registered as Democrat but when I got there I was no party. I was independent," said Brooks. "I'm very passionate about polices and I want my voice to be heard and my voice can't be heard if my vote can't be counted."

Matt Mostrom said he drove five people to the polls on March 15, and only one was able to vote -- because the others were listed as non-partisan. He said they all said they had registered with a party. It also happened to him.

"We got there and they said, 'Sorry, [you're] non-partisan'…effectively I'm no longer part of the system," he said. "These people were highly motivated to support their candidates, and they get there and they can't vote."

Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer said other voters also contacted his office to express the same concerns.

"I would say [there were] maybe 20 or 30, somewhere around there, that came to my attention. There may have been more," he said.

Most voters we found say they changed an address or renewed a license at the Department of Motor Vehicles or a tax collector's office.  Their voter registration was then switched to non-partisan, though they were not aware of it at the time.

Latimer ties the problem to an outdated computer system throughout the state. "I know they have a very cumbersome computer system that's very antiquated that they're dealing with and if they don't put it on the exact right screen when they make that selection, that's where the problems seem to occur."

So if a staff member does not ask an applicant about his/her party affiliation (because they're there for some other reason), their voter registration can be switched.   

"Because all somebody is trying to do is change their address, and when the button is pushed it's now taking whatever their party affiliation was and put it to 'unknown,' which automatically defaults to 'no party affiliation' in our eyes," continued Latimer.

Election supervisors across the state recommended changes. Specifically, they want staff at the DMV and tax collectors to always ask about party affiliation.

Currently, people receive receipts at the DMV office, and later receive voter information cards that list party affiliation. But many people don't scrutinize the receipts or the cards, and some don't catch a switch until it's too late.

You can also check your registration status online via the following link:
http://registration.elections.myflorida.com/CheckVoterStatus

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