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#ProtectYourVote: Lawmaker talks about service members removed from voter rolls

7:15 PM, Nov 3, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- If you didn't vote in the 2008 or 2010 elections, you may have been sent a letter saying you'll be removed from the voter rolls unless you respond. It's part of a state statute aimed at clearing rolls of convicted felons or those who have died. But in the process, an active duty Navy captain says his name was cleared too.

"It's wrong," says Captain Peter Kehrig. "It's going to disenfranchise large numbers of military folks."

He requested an absentee ballot ahead of the deadline, but was told that he's no longer registered in Hillsborough County due to regular maintenance of the voter rolls. 

"I'm obviously disappointed. It's a right that I've earned, I believe, not only by being an American citizen, but I've served in trying to protect our country," he says.

His case has grabbed the attention of some lawmakers.

"I think we should take a look at this and see if there's anything we can do that will expand an appeals process or something along those lines," says Rep. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

A letter was sent to Kehrig's home in Valrico to let him know his name would be removed, but that letter never got to him. He's been serving abroad for years, but the U.S. Postal Service only forwards mail for six months, with the option of extending the service for another six months maximum.

"The [Supervisor of Elections offices] don't go any further than checking motor vehicle records or anything beyond sending a notice to the house which is going to be returned," Kehrig says. "This is essentially a formula for failure."

He's not the only one. Someone else posted on the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections' Facebook page saying, "How is it possible that my info in your system was deleted when I'm active duty and serving our country? I came home on vacation back to Florida and got told that I wouldn't be allowed to vote since my personal data was deleted." 

At this point, the Supervisor of Elections Office says a provisional ballot most likely wouldn't count since they weren't registered to vote by the October 9th deadline.

"We can always look to expand and make sure that veterans and all voters have the most opportunity to get to the polls and have the most opportunity we can provide them to stay registered," says Rep. Brandes.

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