Shortly before the 2000 election, Michael Obregon contacted the Miami-Dade Office of the Supervisor of Elections. Heads up: He had a new address in the city. Where should he go to cast his vote?
“I received a letter,” remembers Obregon, “one page, saying I wasn’t eligible to vote because I had a felony on my record.” He takes out the letter—he keeps it in a manila envelope labeled “Vote Problem”—and reads the warning: “The court system has notified the elections department that you are ineligible to vote. Pursuant to statute 98.093, we have removed your name from the voter registration record. You may contact the office of executive clemency.”
The problem: Obregon hadn’t committed a felony. Someone had apparently stolen the Bennigan’s bartender’s identity, opened some accounts, and gotten busted. That information churned into the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which alerted the Florida Department of State, which passed the information on to the local supervisor’s office, which kicked the nonfelonious Obregon off the rolls.
“I had to send my fingerprints in,” says Obregon, “so I went to the police station, they took them, they sent them in. I got back a copy of my criminal record. It said, ‘There is no felony here.’ ” Thus began a mission to convince state bureaucrats in Tallahassee that he deserved the vote. It’s an ongoing mission. Twelve years later, Obregon still isn’t on the rolls.
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