Jeb Bush rejected warnings on purge list

By Farhad Manjoo
Published October 16, 2004 8:45PM (EDT)

Two months before the state of Florida was forced to abandon its ex-felon voter purge list due to irregularities discovered by the media, Florida Governor Jeb Bush was warned by state computer experts to scrap the system, according to a report today in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. According to the paper, Paul Craft, a technologist at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement who'd been leading the effort to create the purge list, told the governor's office in early May that he wasn't "comfortable" with the method by which the state's software matched names on a list of known felons to a list of people registered to vote. According to an e-mail obtained by the Herald-Tribune through a public records request, though, Jeb Bush rejected Craft's call to scrap the list. "Needless to say, Paul's going NUTS!" the e-mail notes. (Here's a PDF of the e-mail.)

Craft's exasperation was not misplaced. When the state was forced to release the purge list to the public in July, it took the Miami Herald less than a day to discover that thousands of people who'd been granted formal clemency from the governor -- and whose voting rights had therefore been restored -- were on the list. A few days later, the Herald-Tribune and the New York Times discovered that it contained the names of thousands of African-American felons but only 61 Hispanics. Only then did Bush and Glenda Hood, Florida's secretary of state, get rid of the list.

Bush has always maintained that these problems were honest mistakes. Even on Friday, after the Herald-Tribune's discovery of these damning internal e-mails, he elided responsibility in an interview with the paper. But his excuses are hard to believe. "This governor has overseen the most biased, the most unfair election effort in modern Florida history," Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Fla., told the Herald-Tribune. "He's essentially trying to rig the election for George Bush."

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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