Hundreds in Florida falsely identified as felons

On June 22, 2000 The Palm Beach Post reported that a computer error by a Boca Raton company mistakenly identified thousands of Floridians -- including 472 in Palm Beach County and 185 from the Treasure Coast -- as felons in Texas and a few other states. No Floridian convicted of a felony can vote unless his voting rights are restored by the Office of Executive Clemency. The Boca Raton company has a $4 million contract with the state Division of

11,986 people were initially identified as having out-of-state felony convictions. But after angry complaints from people erroneously labeled muggers, burglars and car thieves, the list was reduced to 4,014. Clayton Roberts, director of the Division of Elections claimed they were merely "legitimately trying to remove people from the voter rolls who shouldn't be voting."

The Martin County Elections Supervisor reported that her office had been receiving complaints about incorrect felony notices for months. The chief complaint seemed to be that notices had been sent to people with the same name as someone else who was a convicted felon.

The firm Database Technologies had been hired to clean up state voting rolls, in the wake of cases of dead people's names being used for voting in the 1998 elections in Miami. In the course of that project Database Technologies analyzed computer files in an effort to identify people who were registered in more than one county, were deceased, or were felons. Although Database Technologies' founder was never charged, and has denied criminal activity, it is reported that the firm's contracts with the FBI were suspended in 1999 because of suspected ties to drug smugglers. Nonetheless, the firm was given access to various government and public agency databases, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

In 1999, Database Technologies carried out the first part of its four-year Division of Elections contract. But mistakes were discovered almost immediately. The errors were found in data the firm processed from the Florida Department of Corrections. State elections officials subsequently asked Florida's county elections supervisors to postpone mailing letters identifying felons.

Some county elections supervisors did not mail any letters, even after the warning was rescinded. The new problem apparently arose primarily in records from Texas that identified people convicted of misdemeanors as being felons. A Database Technologies official clamied that Texas had changed its data format without informing them.

In December, the Post reported that Database Technologies had joined a so-called "voter scrub" in cooperation with the Voting Integrity Project. VIP was founded by Helen R. Blackwell, whose husban, Morton Blackwell, was a member of the Reagan Administration. Morton Blackwell is the executive director of the Council for National Policy, a secretive, ultra-conservative political organization whose members reportedly include Oliver North and Ralph Reed. VIP previously investigated the 1996 Louisiana Senate contest which Democrat Mary Landrieu won by fewer than 6,000 votes. VIP claimed evidence of election law violations, including people being paid to vote, but the charges did not affect the election outcome.

Database Technologies was purchased in 2000 by the Atlanta-area firm Choice Point. Choice Point's board of directors includes Bernard Marcus, chairman of Home Depot, and a major Republican contributor. Marcus has contributed more than $200,000 to Republican causes since 1995, including $100,000 in September of 1998. James Lee, a Vice President of Choice Point, told the Post that he did not know how many voters were removed from Florida rolls as a result of the "clean up." The Post was unable to obtain the information from the office of the Florida Secretary of State, as well.


Gelbart, Marcia. "Glitch Tells Hundreds in Florida They Are Felons Who Can't Vote" Palm Beach Post 22 Jun. 2000.

King, Robert P. and Joel Engelhardt. "Credibility of Voter Purging Questioned" Palm Beach Post 6 Dec. 2000.