Controversy Over Florida’s Latest Voter Roll Purge

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Voters mark their ballots during Florida's primary elections. September 2002. (AP photo/Oscar Sosa)
Voters mark their ballots during Florida's primary elections Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2002, at St. Paul American Methodist Episcopal Church in Jacksonville, Fla. Voter turnout was heavier than expected in the area which had thousands of disallowed ballots during the 2000 presidential election. (AP photo/Oscar Sosa)

There’s a controversy brewing around this year’s election and, not surprising, it’s happening in the Sunshine State.

According to the Associated Press, it began last year when Florida Governor Rick Scott asked Kurt Browning, the former secretary of state (who resigned earlier this year), whether or not he thought non-U.S. citizens were illegally registered and planning to vote in this year’s presidential election. Scott instructed Browning to launch an investigation to ferret out and purge ineligible voters from Florida’s rolls. The initial list of “potential noncitizens,” compiled by comparing state motor vehicle licenses with voter registration records, included “as many as 182,000 registered voters.”

“But Browning said he decided against telling local election supervisors right away because he wanted to make sure the information was accurate in order to avoid a ‘firestorm of press’ and criticism. …’We were not confident enough about the information for this secretary to hang his hat on it,’ said Browning, who resigned after the Jan. 31 presidential preference primary.”

In the past few weeks, the first batch of names (more than 2,600) has been sent to county supervisors. Approximately two-thirds of these “potential noncitizens” hail from Miami-Dade county, Florida’s largest county with the highest immigrant population. Analysis conducted by The Miami Herald indicates that “whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal…”

“About 58 percent of those identified as potential noncitizens are Hispanics, Florida’s largest ethnic immigrant population. They make up just 13 percent of the overall 11.3 million active registered voters.

Those who have been flagged as potential noncitizens by the state are being contacted by county election supervisors. Many legitimate voters aren’t happy with what they see as a needless hassle from a government using bad data.”

At least one supervisor, Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher, told Think Progress, which has been providing excellent ongoing coverage of the story, that she wasn’t sending out letters to the 115 people in her county on the list because she believes the documentation is “not credible.” And this afternoon, Think Progress reported that many of the 67 county election supervisors are telling them that “the lists of presumed non-eligible voters is riddled with errors. In large and small jurisdictions across the state, supervisors have found that a large number of the voters on the list are indeed eligible voters.”

On Tuesday, six Florida congressmen sent a letter to Gov. Scott saying they believe that “providing a list of names with questionable validity — created with absolutely no oversight — to county supervisors and asking that they purge their rolls will create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections.”

Ari Berman reports in Rolling Stone that the letters went out to Florida residents on May 8 “informing them, ‘you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote.'”

“The first batch of names was riddled with inaccuracies. For example, as the progressive blog Think Progress noted, ‘an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as ‘non-citizens’ in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens. And the actual number may be much higher.’ If this ratio holds for the rest of the names on the non-citizens list, more than 35,000 eligible voters could be disenfranchised.”

If the recipients do not reply within thirty to sixty days and affirm their U.S. citizenship, they will be dropped from the voter rolls. Election watchers are nervous about the possibility of eligible voters being knocked off the rolls in what may be the swing state in this year’s presidential race.

Miami Herald reporters Caputo and Mazzei remind readers this is not the first time the state has come under fire for trying to clean up its voter rolls. Florida has “met with periodic resistance and questions about race-based purging from liberal-leaning groups like the American Civil Liberties Union. It fought the state’s last effort, in 2008, to remove new voters from the rolls if their voting information didn’t match their government-issued identification cards.”

“In 2000, the elections division’s move to strip felons from the rolls may have wrongly removed hundreds, if not thousands, of potential voters before the presidential election that Florida voters decided by just 537 votes.”

Think Progress‘ Adam Peck noted on Tuesday that the national media has largely been ignoring Scott’s campaign: “[R]emarkably, in the first five months of the year, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today have published a total of zero articles about Scott’s actions. The New York Times did slightly better, printing one story on page 16 of the Friday, May 18th edition. The article ran under the credulous headline: ‘Florida Steps Up Effort Against Illegal Voters.’”

UPDATE 5:49 PM ET: Think Progress is reporting that a federal judge has blocked much of Florida’s controversial voter suppression law that required third-party organizations registering voters to turn in completed forms within 48 hours, or face fines, as an “unconstitutional infringement on speech and voting rights.”

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  • Ttappouni

    Florida has bccome an embarrassment for those of us who live here and love our state. I pray the judiciary does the right thing and stops this travesty of robbing the elderly and the poor–who are more and more of us!–of our right to vote.

  • Mcarey0608

    I wonder if there’s a way America could drop Florida as one of our United States. 

  • Ruthchase1598

    The governor and his new secretary of state et al recently took a “business trip” to Spain to open Florida’s doors to wealthy Spaniards seeking to jump that sinking ship.  I guess as long as you have money and businesses, your alien status is of no consequence?

  • David William Rutledge

    The country is increasingly fascist. 

  • Able Witness

    Numbers vary, however a very conservative estimate of illegal aliens in Florida is at least 500, 000, i.e. a half million people there illegally.  A news reporter was speaking to a Florida voter and she not only stated that she was not a U.S. citizen, she was not in the USA legally.   Illegal voting had gotten so bad in Florida (count estimated 180,000), somebody had to do something.  The world has no respect for America — and especially now that we are without a commander in chief.

  • citizen voter

    Is this “purge” even necessary?  How many people actually try to vote illegally anyway?!

  • Diane Noland

    You sound nothing like an able witness. More like a prejudiced teabagger who listens to nothing but Faux News.

  • CDRon the Gulf.

    And what exactly do you expect those of us who LIKE being part of the United States do? Your response is, at best, ill-considered.

  • electriclady281

    The national republican round-up of voter frauds has netted two notable ones: 
    l.  Indiana’s top election official,  Secretary of State Charles White,
    the person in charge of voting and voter fraud has been convicted of six felonies this year, including voter fraud.  He used his ex-wife’s home address on his voter registration in order to keep his $1000-a-month stipend from the town council from that city.  Governor Mitch Daniels refused to appoint a replacement for White because the appeals court might have reversed the conviction.  However, he was sentenced to a year of house arrest and finally was fired.  Mitch Daniels will probably not be named to be Mitt Romney’s vice president.

    2.  Thaddeus McCotter, Michigan US Representative was required to turn in 2000 signatures in order to qualify for that state’s ballott even though he was running for re-election.  Not only were 244 signatures were found to be invalid, but signatures were badly cut and pasted and 1000 pages were found to be identical except for the authenticated signature of the gatherer.  There may be a criminal conviction coming quickly here.

    THIS is the voter fraud for which the GOP has been searching, and it was right under their noses all the time–not among those who already have been purged in Florida.

  • Klagya

    Q: What is “super PACs”?
    Is it: through international corporations, other countries manipulate US election?

  • Klagya

    I agree!

  • Ibygeorge

    It is rumored Putin is moving to Florida and is coming with a American birth certificate.
    A few hundred thousand of his friends are said to follow him there.

  • Anonymous

    I do not know how Rick Scott was elected.  He has closed some of the drug distribution centers (pain clinics) in FL.  But he threw away Billions that would have brought jobs and public transportation.  Then he invited Colt into the state to make guns that 80% are exported to drug cartels that target our own people.  He got his money by ripping off Medicare, but I guess people thought that if he could make money for himself, he could make it for the state.  There is a difference between being able to steal and make money.

  • JanisL55

    I suspect Rick Scott was NOT elected, I think it very likely that the Republican Party of Florida did what they do best–election fraud to “transform” those 60,000 votes from Alex Sink to Gov. Medicrook!  He was not and is not qualified either morally or professionally to govern any state, much less this very profoundly troubled state!  He literally BOUGHT the office with $37M of his own cash, running dirty lie ads besmirching Alex Sink–you know the usual routine of Swiftboating Repukes!  Scott is possibly the worst thing that ever happened to the prospects of Florida ever being anything but a laughingstock and magnet for sleazy crooks!   He has been boldly treading all over our rights and our laws from day one.  He needs to be forced out of office, by whatever means!  He is universally despised, and the last straw was his outrageous performance last week in Spain.  He hasn’t a clue how to conduct himself and clearly has no understanding of the oath he swore to protect the best interests of all Floridians–not just fatcat corporate millionaires!  He is FL’s version of Willard R-money, in spades!  

  • JanisL55

     I feel that way about Texass–as no less than Gov. Rick Perry has threatened in the past.  I say:  good riddance, who needs you?  Texas, as Florida, rates at the bottom of the barrel in the most important social indicators, they are both lawless states where “anything goes”, wages are the lowest, graduation rates are the lowest, education quality is the lowest and that is all with the blessing of dimwit Legislatures!    We can thank TX for giving us the worst president in our nation’s history and FL for the crime of the millenium–stealing the White House by the Governor for his dimwit sociopathic brother!   Everyone I know in FL knows the Repukes have trashed this state in the last 12 years, and they are quietly planning their exit from this land of corruption soon, very soon!   Just let me know before the secession happens !  I am hoping for a Cat 5 hurricane to hit Tampa right as the stupid Pukes start their convention.   What brilliant member of the RNC planned THAT one?