The Governor of Florida continues his push to have suspected non-citizens removed from the voter rolls. But he seems disingenuous at best, given the procedures used. The Florida elections office put together a list of about 180,000 potential non-citizens gathered from the state motor vehicle database, which contains citizenship data. However this information is not updated, when citizenship status changes. And some of the data was from as long ago as 2000 and 2001. So it is a foregone conclusion that this list will provide incorrect data. This purge is more likely a political move, designed to keep specific groups of people from voting.
So how did the purge go? The state election office sent out its first batch of 2,700 voters to the Supervisors of Elections in each county. The Miami Herald found that 58% of the people on this list were Hispanic, and 14% were black. Whites and Republicans were least likely to show up on the list, according to the paper. Many of the Supervisors sent out letters to these folks advising them that they had been deemed ineligible to vote and were about to be removed from the voter rolls. Florida Senator Bill Nelson sent me an email about a World War II veteran, a recipient of a Bronze Star for his part in the Battle of the Bulge, who had received one of these letters. Although some of the recipients admitted they were non-citizens, the large majority of respondents provided proof-positive that they were indeed citizens. Today, the Miami Herald reported that Miami-Dade had so far found that 514 people on the list were citizens and about 14 were noncitizens. Pinellas County initially removed 14 voters from the list provided by the state, but reinstated them after it came out that the list was full of errors. Think Progress reported that Sarasota County received 14 names from the state as sure-fire non-citizens. Two or three of them have already proven their citizenship, and one was removed after indicating they were not an eligible voter. None of the remaining non-responding 10 or 11 voters will be purged due to the significant inaccuracies on the list.
Where do all the players stand today? Determined to follow the law, all 67 county Elections Supervisors have suspended the purge for now, because they don’t trust the accuracy of the lists provided. Governor Scott continues to push for removing voters. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) weighed in with a letter to the Governor telling him to halt the purge. The DOJ states that the purge violates both the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. The Florida state legislature passed a string of voter suppression laws in 2011 that resulted in reduced early voting and virtually stamped out voter registration drives (see the people's response here and a full rundown of nationwide suppression laws here). A couple of weeks ago, a federal judge cut key provisions of these laws.
Why is this so important? In 2000, a few hundred votes in Florida decided the outcome of a presidential election. Prior to that election, Florida tried to remove ex-felons from the voter rolls. By using very broad matching criteria, many non-felon black voters were purged. With Governor Scott, the Florida tradition of disenfranchising legitimate voters continues.
Sarasota's Response. Today, Governor Scott came to speak to the Argus Foundation in Sarasota. Occupy Sarasota had put out the call to gather at the entrance to Longboat Key to let him know that they are angry with him. Each member of the group articulated a similar feeling about democracy that had led them to the conclusion that all of us, including Governor Scott, should be helping people to vote, not making it more difficult. And each person brought a sense of the history of voter suppression in Florida, when they spoke.