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Nancy Smith

Tell Me Again Why We Shouldn't Want Accurate Voter Rolls

May 28, 2012 - 6:00pm

The headline reads, "Voting rights groups ask Scott to stop noncitizen voter purge." Think about it. Why would any voting rights group in America do a thing like that?

Surely, all good citizens in this democratic republic want only eligible voters casting ballots. How else can we defend the integrity of the election process in the freest nation in the world?

And it's right there in black and white, in Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act. The NVRA requires that states keep their voter rolls cleaned up. And, most do a decent job.

Florida apparently does not.

Along with Ohio, Indiana and California, the Sunshine State has been identified in a study by a government corruption watchdog as one of the top four egregious slackers when it comes to purging phony voters from its rolls.

According to the Judicial Watch study, called 2012 Election Integrity Project, "there appear to be more individuals on voter registration lists in these states than there are individuals eligible to vote, including individuals who are deceased." (Have a look at the Feb. 12 clean-up-or-else letter Judicial Watch sent to the Florida secretary of state in one of the attachments below.)

In the last three weeks alone, Secretary of State Ken Detzner's office has begun to dump from the state rolls what it identifies as at least 50,000 dead voters and some 7,000 convicted felons. In fact, the Broward Republican Executive Committee has said a sampling of voter registration records found that nearly one-quarter of the people listed on the county's election rolls are dead -- definitely and without question.

But controversy arises over Detzner's determination to remove as many as 182,000 suspected noncitizens from the voter rolls. Groups like Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and LULAC Florida found a way somehow to call authenticating voter rolls "a deeply flawed process." And with the backing of most Democratic members of the Florida Legislature, they are ready to go to court.

They claim the noncitizen purge is just a way to strip minorities -- particularly Hispanics -- of their right to vote. (Read, below attached, one of the letters from this group to the Florida secretary of state.)

But Judicial Watch is likely to fight back. It has unearthed documents showing that, rather than taking action to enforce Section 8 of the NVRA, the Obama Department of Justice is now working with ACORN-front Project Vote, Barack Obamas former employer, to push for strict enforcement of Section 7 of the NVRA.

Section 7 is the part of the voting act that relates to welfare office voter registration obligations. Says Judicial Watch, "The purpose of this campaign is evidently to use voter registration laws to register greater numbers of low-income voters, widely considered to be an important voting demographic for the Obama presidential campaign."

Said Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of voter protection projects for the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Advancement Project, Florida has a very shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information before presidential elections.

Despite the bickering, on May 7 an entirely right-minded Detzner directed county-level election officials to begin notifying these individuals that they have 30 days to show proof of citizenship or their names would be purged from voter rolls. Ineligible voters who cast ballots are committing a felony, and the warning letters sent out said exactly that.

"The language was a little 'in your face' I think," Marissa Hernandez of Miami told Sunshine State News. "I was hurt. But I am a proud American, I have moved around a lot and remarried, so I know how this happened and I didn't mind faxing my American passport."

Chris Cate, spokesman for Detzner, has said this: Nobody should be OK with ineligible voters being on the rolls. We're simply trying to address that. And we arent more concerned or doing this because this is an election year. This isnt an election year issue. This is a voting integrity issue, something we worry about all the time.

Authenticating the voter rolls has long been a priority of Gov. Rick Scott. And why wouldn't it be? The governor, above all, is a detail man. One ineligible voter -- even just one -- casting a ballot would not be OK with him.

Florida is home to 11.3 million voters and leverages 29 electoral votes. That makes us a very big deal, electionally speaking.

In the last 12 years our creaky, mistake-pocked elections process has helped define and, on occasion, shame us. With the rest of the nation watching how we pull our socks up, could we please let the secretary of state's people just concentrate on getting the voter rolls right?

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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