MIAMI — At least 445 Florida felons voted illegally Nov. 7, casting more doubt over the sharply contested presidential election, a newspaper investigation found.
A review of nearly 500,000 ballots cast in 12 Florida counties found that hundreds of felons voted despite the state's multimillion-dollar effort to purge dead and illegal voters from lists of registered voters, the Miami Herald reported in its Friday editions.
This could mean more than 5,000 felons cast ballots, if the pattern holds up across the state. Nearly 6 million people voted in Florida's 67 counties.
The vast majority of the votes by felons, nearly 75%, were cast by registered Democrats. The felons included 62 robbers, 56 drug dealers, 45 killers, 16 rapists and seven kidnappers.
"There are a ton of us out there," said William Herman, 37, of Lake Worth, sentenced to five years in prison in 1989 for negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. "It shouldn't be that way, but when they give you a voter registration card, hey, what are you supposed to do?"
It is illegal for felons to vote in Florida unless they formally apply to have their voting privileges reinstated.
The finding may give Republican lawyers ammunition against Vice President Al Gore's latest requests for recounts. The illegal ballots could outweigh the result of further recounts in this tight election.
Palm Beach and Duval counties, which decided against using a state election database to eliminate felons from the rolls, had the largest number of tainted votes. County officials said the Florida Division of Elections database was rife with errors.
But most counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward, used the database to strike felons from their registers.
The Herald conducted its review by comparing lists of voters with a Department of Corrections database naming felons. Not all counties are listed in the corrections database.