Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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September 27, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

VOTER FRAUD IN FLORIDA, PART CXXVI....Publius at Legal Fiction decided today to revisit a story he's written about before, and in the process uncovered some damn good reporting from Chris Davis and Matthew Doig of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Short version: Felons are not allowed to vote in Florida, and last July, after a protracted battle by the state, a federal judge forced Florida election officials to make their newly created felon list public. Surprise! It turned out the list had lots of blacks (who mostly vote Democratic) but virtually no Hispanics (who mostly vote Republican). After a public outcry, the list was scrapped.

Fine. But why were there no Hispanics on the list? Was it just an unforeseen computer glitch or was it deliberate hanky panky? Publius has the full story, and the bottom line is that the evidence seems to indicate that it probably wasn't just a glitch. Go read it.

I'll add one comment of my own. The technical reason that Hispanics were excluded from the list is that Florida officials insisted that no one be purged from voting rolls unless their voter registration record matched perfectly with a prison record. This is a good idea, but it turns out that Hispanics are listed as "white" in the prison database and as "Hispanic" in the voter registration database. Thus, none of them matched perfectly.

Davis and Doig present several pieces of evidence that suggest everyone knew perfectly well this would happen, and all of it makes sense to me. I've been involved in database projects like this before, and they all the work the same way, especially when they're done by a big consulting company like Accenture. The database schemas are all carefully compared with each other, test runs are performed, data conversions are done, and sample data is run and matched against hand-checked data to make sure all the code is working properly. This and more is done multiple times by multiple people (and billed out at $200 per hour). That's just how it works, and an obvious data mismatch like this would leap out almost immediately and set off all sorts of alarms.

In other words, of course they knew. In a project of this size, it's just inconceivable that they didn't. And if CNN and several local newspapers hadn't sued to open up the database, no one would ever have been the wiser.

Disgusting. But hardly unexpected, is it?

Kevin Drum 5:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks

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