Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Task Force to Probe for Vote Wrongdoing Chairman's Ideas May Take Flak

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Task Force to Probe for Vote Wrongdoing Chairman's Ideas May Take Flak

Article excerpt

The chairman of Duval County's election task force is pledging to do more than examine the troubled Nov. 7 election -- he wants to investigate allegations of wrongdoing at polling places and elsewhere.

But chairman Preston Haskell's ideas -- expressed in an interview this week -- suggest seeds of disagreement among the 12-member, bipartisan group and local political leaders about the role of the task force before it meets in 1 1/2 weeks. What the task force examines could ultimately determine whether it is effective or redundant to other plans, some said.

Haskell's early list, which the task force will consider, includes registration procedures, voter education, election day communication, absentee and provisional ballots, voter fraud, new voting technology, pollworker training and whether the election supervisors job should be non-partisan.

"A lot of what happened Nov. 7 was due to first-time voters having never been voters before, not having the experience," said Haskell, a Democrat.

But Haskell, saying no issue is ruled out, also suggested the 22,000 ballots nullified because of double-voting could be investigated, as well as any reports of police blocking voters' access and polls not allowing people to vote who were in line at 7 p.m. While there are no plans, he also said inspecting punch-card ballots isn't ruled out.

Complaints, particularly among minorities, erupted over the election. For example, Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., has said she went to vote but was denied because an absentee ballot was sent to Washington for her. She said she asked to sign an affidavit saying she hadn't voted, but pollworkers couldn't get through to the supervisor's office, spokeswoman Gretchen Hitchner said. So Brown then voted at the downtown office.

Other complaints include people being denied ballots because of registration questions, pollworker intimidation and unregistered voters being allowed to cast ballots.

If evidence of crimes is turned up, Haskell said he would not hesitate to give it to authorities.

The local group's creation follows Duval County Supervisor of Elections John Stafford's 10-point plan to improve procedures after first balking, then supporting, the task force. …

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