Florida Rejects Call to Keep Non-Citizens on Voter Rolls

By: Jim Turner | Posted: May 25, 2012 3:55 AM
The state won't give in to a request from a group of voting rights organizations to halt the ongoing purge of noncitizens from the roll of voters in Florida.

Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, LULAC Florida, and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition Inc. announced Thursday they had sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, claiming the state’s effort to identify and remove people who may not be citizens violates federal law.

The groups also demanded the state immediately cease the review process.

The Department of State, which oversees the Division of Elections, quickly rejected the letter.

“Not only do we believe it’s crucial to have ineligible voters removed from the voter rolls, we’re obligated by law to do it,” Department of State spokesman Chris Cate responded in an email.

The Department of State will send a formal response to the groups, Cate added.

The groups claim that database matching programs are notoriously unreliable, because of data entry errors, similar-sounding names, and changes in information resulting in false matches. They also question the direction from the state that gives county elections supervisors 30 days to determine if a voter is eligible, claiming federal rules require 90 days.

“Cleaning up voter rolls should be done with the utmost care and by following the law,” Ben Hovland, senior counsel for the Fair Elections Legal Network, stated in a release.

The groups add that Florida has a “shameful” history of removing minority voters.

“Florida has enjoyed a dramatic increase in population fueled in large part by the number of Latinos now calling it home,” Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, stated in the release.

“Demographic change should not engender targeted and faulty methods to reduce the political participation of these and other citizens of the state. The timing of these measures also reduces the confidence that Florida’s voters should have in election administration. This purge must be stopped.”

In the release, the groups note -- incorrectly -- that “Florida’s presidential primary will take place on Aug. 14, 2012, less than 90 days away. Therefore, even voters who have already been targeted must not be removed from the rolls before the 2012 election.”

The Presidential Preference Primary was Jan. 31. State and local primaries, including the GOP Senate primary along with other local contests, will take place across the state on Aug. 14.

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, made a similar request, reportedly saying that Gov. Rick Scott was engaging in a “blatant attempt to suppress voter turnout."

Since last year, the state Division of Elections has undertaken a massive review for potential noncitizens among the registered voters using Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles information.

County supervisors of election -- mostly in South Florida -- have been directed to further review 2,600 people for their status to vote.

Three names have so far been referred from the secretary of state to the state attorney’s office for potential prosecution under the Third Party Voter Registration Act.

Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning said Tuesday that the state review of the voter rolls began last year as part of "a casual conversation" during a briefing about the agency to Gov. Rick Scott, shortly after the governor took office.

Some county elections officials have pushed back against the plan that requires them to contact those flagged as suspected noncitizens by the initial state review.

Election supervisors, who make the final call if a voter is added or removed from the rolls, were not immediately informed of the state review until the state was able to conduct reviews.

Browning said that was his decision. He wanted to ensure that the information being sent to the county was accurate before proceeding.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (1)

10:59AM MAY 26TH 2012
Despite the spin of your headline - "Florida Rejects Call to Keep Non-Citizens on Voter Rolls" - this is actually about NOT removing legally registered citizen voters through the use of lists that are clearly, demonstrably incorrect.

If the state expects local officials to check out the state's produced list, the state needs to pay for that checking - otherwise, this is just another example of an unconstitutional, unfunded mandate.

If Browning thought that the list "was accurate before proceeding" why are there still errors on it? Was that "accurate" statement a lie, or just incompetence.

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