- (KRT) - With debate over the 2000 election still raging,
thousands of people illegally register in both New York City and Florida,
which could swing an election.
Some 46,000 New Yorkers are registered to vote in both the city and
Florida, a shocking finding that exposes both states to potential abuses
that could alter the outcome of elections, a New York Daily News
Registering in two places is illegal in both states, but the massive
snowbird scandal goes undetected because election officials don't check
rolls across state lines.
The finding is even more stunning given the pivotal role Florida played
in the 2000 presidential election, when a margin there of 537 votes tipped a
victory to George W. Bush.
Computer records analyzed by The News don't allow for an exact count of
how many people vote in both places, because millions of names are regularly
purged between elections.
But The News found that between 400 and 1,000 registered voters have
voted twice in at least one election, a federal offense punishable by up to
five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
One was Norman Siegel, 84, who is registered as a Republican in both
Pinellas Park, Fla., and Briarwood, Queens, N.Y. Siegel has voted twice in
seven elections, including the last four presidential races, records show.
Officials in both states acknowledge that voting in multiple states is
something of a perfect crime, one officials don't have the means to catch.
"I can't imagine how the supervisors would have access to that
information," said Jenny Nash, spokeswoman for the Florida secretary of
state. "As far as I know, cross-state registry has not been discussed."
The News' investigation also found:
Of the 46,000 registered in both states, 68 percent are Democrats, 12
percent are Republicans and 16 percent didn't claim a party.
Nearly 1,700 of those registered in both states requested that absentee
ballots be mailed to their home in the other state, where they are also
registered. But that doesn't raise red flags with officials in either place.
Efforts to prevent people from registering and voting in more than one
state rely mostly on the honor system.
New registrants are required to supply a prior address, which kicks in a
notification process to election officials in the other jurisdiction.
Officials also cross-check change-of-address records from the U.S. Postal
Both procedures largely count on the honesty of the person registering.
And neither would catch people who have homes in both places - including the
thousands of snowbirds, the term for Northerners who winter in southern
"There's no extensive investigation normally on a voter registration
form," said Steven Richman, general counsel for the city Board of Elections.
"We accept it at its face value."
Eliminating the potential to vote in multiple states would require
creating a national voter registration system with federally assigned voter
ID numbers, said Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University
in Washington and a voting rights expert.
"I don't think the country is ready for that," Lichtman said. "It may
well be that a few hundred people spilling over and voting twice may be an
inevitable friction within the system."
Florida election officials were widely criticized after the 2000 election
for instituting policies that resulted in thousands of African-Americans,
who tend to vote Democratic, being turned away at the polls.
Republican officials are battling similar charges in this year's
Glenda Hood, the Florida secretary of state appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush in
2002, created a list of felons to be purged from the voter rolls. But the
methodology used to create the list guaranteed few Hispanics, who typically
vote Republican in Florida, would be purged, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune
In another problem, The Miami Herald reported that more than 2,000
convicted felons on the list had regained their voting rights after
receiving clemency. Hood has opened an internal investigation.
An advocacy group, People for the American Way, has asked U.S. Attorney
General John Ashcroft to open a federal probe.
But for all the fire Florida takes, there's no hint that New York's
election officials are performing any better.
At the city and state level, the election boards are deeply politicized
patronage mills that rely on aging technology.
The Help America Vote Act of 2002, passed in response to the 2000
election debacle, requires all states to create statewide voter registration
databases by Jan. 1, 2006.
Florida already has created the statewide registry, though it doesn't yet
fully comply with the new law.
Like most things in Albany, a bill needed to implement the federal law is
stalled in the Legislature, so even the federal money already received can't
There are no plans to match the registries across states.
The News contacted more than a dozen people registered in both places,
some of whom have voted twice in the same election. Most described
themselves as native New Yorkers who briefly flirted with Florida.
Barbara Donovan, 59, was a transplanted New Yorker living in Florida when
she visited her daughter in the city on Sept. 11, 2001. Overcome by
solidarity with her hometown, she decided to move back. She registered to
vote from her daughter's apartment. But her mother became ill and she
returned to Florida.
Her registrations in both places remain active, but Donovan has never
voted twice. "I guess if you were some kind of zealot, you could vote in
both places," Donovan said. "And last time the election was so close, it
really makes you wonder."
Norman Seigel puts a new twist on the political adage "vote early, and
often." In Siegel's case, you could add "over and over again." Siegel (no relation to the civil rights lawyer of the same name) has
voted twice in seven elections since 1988, including four presidential
races, records show. Registered as a Republican at his home in Briarwood, Queens, and in
Pinellas Park, Fla., Siegel has usually filed an absentee ballot in one or
both places. Reached at his Florida home, Siegel interrupted a News reporter who was
telling him that thousands of people are registered to vote in both states.
"That's illegal," Siegel interjected. "You have to pick one place as your
residence and vote there."
Told that the records show he maintains registrations in both places,
Siegel said he had not voted in Florida, then said he had not voted in New
York. When he was told that records show he has voted in both places, Siegel
cut off the conversation. "I have to go," he said.
Irving and Magdolna Hertz of Borough Park, Brooklyn, also made a habit of
being counted - twice. Magdolna, 85, voted in both New York and Florida
during the November general elections in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Irving, 91,
did the same in 1996 and 1998. Each time, they both mailed absentee ballots
to Miami and voted at the polls in Brooklyn. Reached on the phone in Brooklyn, Irving Hertz interrupted a reporter
before a question could be asked. "I'm not here today," Hertz said and hung up. He did not return later
Several New Yorkers who have voted twice in elections said it happened by
Joseph Moschella, 59, a retired Transit Authority supervisor, said his
dual vote in the 2000 presidential election was a mistake caused by his
annual snowbird migration. The registered Republican in Melbourne Beach, Fla., and on Staten Island
said he thought his absentee ballot to Florida hit the mail too late, so he
voted in New York as well. "What happened was, I mailed it, but wanted to make sure I got my vote,"
Moschella said. "I'm pretty sure if you don't mail it by a certain date it's
Edwin Peterson, 66, a registered Democrat in Palm Coast, Fla., and St.
Albans, Queens, attributed his dual vote in the 2000 election to his
distrust of the party running the Sunshine State. "That was a situation where Florida is so messed up with the Republicans,
you don't know if your vote is even going to be counted," Peterson said.
"It's been like that forever."
© 2004, New York Daily News.
Visit the Daily News online at
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.