But two issues immediately came to light illustrating continuing problems with election procedures in the Sunshine State: Gracey is a cat. And Gracey's dead.
“Why is my (dead)cat getting #voterregistration apps? This is the #2,” Gracey’s former owner, Julie Duncan, asked her local election supervisor via a Tweet.
The architects of the data base say that it was just a "mix-up or mismatch" that caused the nonprofit Voter Participation Center to think “Gracey Duncan” fit the profile of a person, in this case a minority or single woman and that this is who the leftist-leaning group is trying to register ahead of the upcoming presidential election.
Florida is considered the nation’s most crucial swing state with a history of election controversies including the infamous "hanging chad" issue that haunted officials after the 2000 elections.. So, what might have been viewed as a simple anomaly in the process created a more complex debate between elections officials, advocates and political science academicians over how the state regulates voter-registration drives and rolls. None expressed concerns about voter fraud because of multi-step voter-ID requirements.
The controversy has intensified over the past several weeks as the Washington-based Voter Participation Center (VPC) started one of the nation’s largest voter-registration drives by mail. , Over 4 million potential registrants were contacted by the VPC in 20 states, including approximately 630,000 in Florida, just in the month of March. As a result, the VPC failed to find some of the registrants were dead people, or, in Duncan’s case, a pet.
This misidentification has frustrated voters and worried elections officials.
According to Politico Florida, "The center says it’s just trying to get underrepresented people more of a say at the ballot box. So it’s targeting specific profiles of potential voters: African Americans, Latinos, millennials and single women — groups that have a tendency to strongly back Democratic candidates. Finding these people, however, isn’t easy. It requires the center to buy data from direct mail firms and other companies that assemble profiles of people based on public and corporate records. Sometimes, pet names slip through, even though the center screens for them," said Politico's Marc Caputo.
"In Duncan’s case, she had “no idea” how her small orange tabby who died in 2014 wound up identified as a potential voter. “Other than the veterinarian and animal control, (rabies shot and county tags), I don't recall ever having to give out her information,” said Duncan, who lives in Oviedo, in Seminole County, " she told POLITICO Florida via an email.
The CEO of VPC - Page Gardner -recently said it is a "very rare case” where a pet is misidentified as a voter. to keep these types of problems in check she said the center "cross-checks Social Security Administration and master voter files" to avoid registering dead people or voters registered in other states.
But, she says, mistakes still occur and there is probably no way to eliminate all of them without instituting security protocols that would make increased registration too difficult to be effective.
Caption for Ertel Photo:
Michael Ertel, 45, the Supervisor of Elections for Seminole County for the past ten years Ertel also conducted.post-disaster public relations for the State of Florida’s tourism marketing agency, Visit Florida. In 2011 Ertel was a speaker at the Heritage Foundation concerning military voting rights, and was the only U.S. elections administrator at the International Electoral Affairs Symposium in London, where he facilitated the discussion on rebuilding voter trust. In 2013, Ertel was the only American elections official to be honored at the International Electoral awards by winning an award for building voter trust. In 2011, he was one of ten inaugural recipients of Campaigns and Elections magazine’s Innovator Awards for his voter outreach activities.
“If their pet name sounds like a real name, it’s harder to screen them out,” Gardner said. “The more important piece of this story is the number of individuals in the state of Florida who are unregistered to vote. As of 2014, there were over 3 million people in the rising American electorate — people of color and unmarried women — who were unregistered to vote in Florida. That’s an enormous number.”
Cavuto has said that " if the center’s numbers are right and all these people were added to Florida’s 12 million voter registration rolls, it would increase the electorate by 25 percent."
One official, Seminole County Election Supervisor Mike Ertel, says the voter registration drive troubles him.
“People think this is official correspondence when it’s not and it undermines people’s faith in the elections system,” Ertel said, adding that voter confidence is particularly important in the state because of its crucial role in presidential contests and its history of close elections.
Ertel specifically referred to the aforementioned history of Florida’s disputed 2000 election debacle, where hanging chads, recounts, voter purges and the colorfully named butterfly and caterpillar ballots brought ridicule to Florida's political process. It ultimately led to the validity of tens of thousands of votes being called into question followed by a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruling put George W. Bush in the White House by 537 votes.
"D.C.-based group tries to register dead cat to vote in #VoteSeminole. Dead cat doesn't comply. @VoteSeminole replies," Ertel said in a recent Tweet. He further questioned the methods and motivations of VPC.
One of his colleagues Brian E. Corley Supervisor of Elections in Pasco County- shared Ertel's concerns and posted a similar statement n his website.
Corley referred to the center’s forms as “confusing” and mentioned a local news story on Twitter with the Tweet “Previously ‘a high volume’ of apps to dead people, non FL residents. noncitizens, minors and even animals" #aaagh.”
Lashing back against the views of Corley and Ertel and other election officials, two University of Florida political science professors are defending the center’s registration drives, claiming Florida legislators make voter registration too hard.
“If Florida had same day registration, you wouldn't have to worry about fictional pets registering at the polls,” said professor Daniel A. Smith. Professor Michael McDonald agreed and added, "nonprofits are in a bind because they must return all applications or be punished, even when a person fraudulently fills it out.”
To establish a true fraudulent voter in Florida requires the creation of a fake ID to officially cast a ballot and that has kept this issue off the table for now. .
Nevertheless, McDonald said the Voter Participation Center’s mission is admirable and "effective" getting an increased number of "marginalized voters" on the official rolls.
“The real problem is the government has shifted the responsibility of getting people to vote to nonprofits,” McDonald said. “It’s not like the center’s mission is to register cats to vote. It’s not like a cat is going t
Capton for Page Photo:
Page Gardner is the founder and President of the Voter Participation Center (VPC), a research-driven, non-profit and non-partisan organization dedicated to increasing the participation of unmarried women and other historically underrepresented groups in our democracy. In 2003, Ms. Gardner founded Women’s Voices. Women Vote, the organization now known as VPC, which was the first major group to identify unmarried women as a crucial constituency and to realize the importance of marital status in voting.
show up on Election Day and show ID and cast a ballot.”