Florida Defends Its Voter Purge Before the Presidential Primary
Florida’s leaders are defending the state’s effort to remove potential noncitizens from its voter rolls after the Department of Justice (DOJ) warned Florida that its efforts violated the National Voter Registration Act by occurring within the 90-day period before Florida’s Aug. 14 presidential primary.
In a June 6, 2012 response letter to the DOJ, Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner explained his state’s actions by writing, “Permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process.”
According to the Miami Herald, the list of alleged noncitizen voters so far flagged by Florida “disproportionately hits minorities, especially Hispanics. About 58 percent of those flagged as potential noncitizens are Hispanics.” Additionally the newspaper found that “independent voters and Democrats are the most likely to face being purged from the rolls. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites are the least likely.”
Florida’s Republican Governor Rick Scott denies any political motivation behind the voter purge. On June 4, he told reporters in Gadsden County: “We just want fair elections. And that’s what I always want. This is not a partisan issue. I mean, Republicans want fair elections, Democrats, independents, we all do.”
Volusia County Elections Supervisor Ann McFall disagrees with Scott’s assessment. Speaking to NPR about the noncitizen voter purge she said, “Yeah, I think it’s becoming more partisan. And I’m Republican. I’m not the only Republican supervisor out there just screaming from the rafters, saying let us do our job.”
CBS reported on June 8, 2012 that “Despite continued efforts by Florida officials to proceed with a controversial sweep of the state’s voter rolls, election officials in many of Florida’s 67 counties have decided not to proceed with the process, according to the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.”
In addition to trying to exclude noncitizen voters, Florida has also been purging felons from its voter rolls. According to a study by the Miami Herald, “In the first four months of 2012, election supervisors removed nearly 7,000 voters from the rolls following recent felony convictions… Democrats were three times more likely than Republicans to be removed.”
These noncitizen and felon purges follow on the heels of controversial 2011 Florida legislation HB 1355, which in part shortened the 10 days that third party groups had to turn in new voter registration information to 48 hours. It also required that third parties submit monthly reports to the state accouting for every voter registration form that they possess.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Project Vote, League of Women Voters of Florida, and Rock the Vote were among many organizations that contested HB 1355 in court. On May 31, 2012, a US District Judge struck down a provision related to third-party voter registration efforts writing, “If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also make it harder for new voters to register, this may work. Otherwise, there is little reason for such a requirement.”
Lenny Curry, Chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, told ColorLines that the requirement was “very easy to comply with. When groups are registering people to vote it’s just good controls, you have to have good internal controls in place.”
As a delegate-rich battleground state, Florida’s actions may impact the 2012 presidential election. Florida has 30 days to appeal the US District Judge’s decision.
Greg Allen, “Florida to Purge Non-Citizens from Voter Rolls,” www.npr.org, June 6, 2012
Steve Bousquest, “Federal Judge Strikes Down Part of State Election Law,” miamiherald.typepad.com, May 31, 2012
Steve Bousquet, “State Purges 7000 Felons from Voting Rolls,” www.miamiherald.com, May 22, 2012
Kathleen Haughney, “Scott Defends Voter Roll Purge,” weblogs.sun-sentinel.com, June 4, 2012
Brentin Mock, “Federal Judge Overturns Draconian Voter Registration Rules in Florida,” colorlines.com June 1, 2012