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Florida’s Voter Purge: There Is a Better Way to Ensure Accurate Rolls

| June 7, 2012

Too easy. (Vitor Sá)

By Paula Dockery

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been asked to comment on the state’s efforts to purge the voter rolls, the methodology by which it came up with the initial and revised lists, and the propriety of the U.S. Department of Justice’s intervention.

As a brief history, Gov. Rick Scott directed Florida’s Secretary of State to undertake an effort to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls. Initially, the Division of Elections identified roughly 180,000 potential non-citizens by searching a computer database from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. After making comparisons to the voter registration database, it whittled the list to 2,600 voters and sent those names to the counties — just months before the 2012 elections.

At the top of the list was Miami-Dade, where 359 voters have had to prove they were Americans, and an additional 26 were determined to be citizens by the county. A mere 10 voters were either ineligible, or requested to be removed, from the rolls.

In Broward County, 259 voters were given 30 days to prove they were Americans. Among them: Bill Internicola, a 91-year-old Army veteran of World War II, who earned the Bronze Star and Legion of Honor for his service at the Battle of the Bulge.

Also in Broward, Maureen Russo got a government letter challenging where she was born. She sent a copy of her passport immediately. She was born in Akron, Ohio.

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The stories don’t stop there. In Hillsborough, another World War II vet, Archibald Bowyer, 91, was forced to prove his citizenship. And in Seminole, Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel posted a picture of a so-called ineligible voter — holding his passport.

Across the state, stories about mistakes raise doubts about the integrity of the voter purge.

It will be interesting to see how many of the original 180,000 voters — or even the 2,600 targeted voters — will be removed. The preliminary data indicates a very small percentage, as evidenced by Miami-Dade, which found 10 illegal voters out of 395 — a mere 2.5 percent.

Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes told the Miami Herald: “List maintenance is ongoing. We would have gotten folks off the rolls if they are not supposed to be there.” To put this in perspective, Broward has more than a million registered voters and its list of potentially ineligible voters had 259 names.

We can all agree that we want our voter rolls to be as accurate as possible, eliminating non-citizens and voters that have died. Where the disagreement begins is in the manner that this is accomplished. If the state seeks to remove someone, shouldn’t it be certain the individual was registered improperly? Shouldn’t this be initiated through the 67 locally elected supervisors of election, who are constitutional officers? And shouldn’t this be done in a non-election year and in a non-redistricting year?

One legitimate concern is that some eligible voters might be purged incorrectly and prevented from voting. What if the voter is disabled, old, blind and doesn’t respond to the letter? What if the voter moved and never received the letter or was away from home and saw the letter too late? Shouldn’t the burden of proof be on the state to remove a voter rather than on the voter to prove he or she should remain?

A spokesman for Florida’s Secretary of State said “a handful of people have been inconvenienced.” It seems more accurate to say, “in order to remove a handful of ineligible voters, a thousand or so legitimate voters were inconvenienced,” including two 91-year-old vets who fought for the right for all of us to hold free elections.

The Justice Department has ordered the purge to stop, but the governor has indicated a desire to challenge the feds. The appropriate response should be for the state to voluntarily cease the purge and direct the 67 elections supervisors to implement an ongoing process to clean up the voter rolls, with state agencies sharing their databases. That way, local supervisors could check the voter’s status without issuing alarming letters to citizens. As constitutional officers, it is their responsibility to protect the integrity of the voting process, a role they take very seriously.

Paula Dockery is a term-limited Republican senator from Lakeland who is chronicling her final year in the Florida Senate. She can be reached by email here.

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8 Responses for “Florida’s Voter Purge: There Is a Better Way to Ensure Accurate Rolls”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    What a double standard this Governor is. He should be the least looking for voters fraud when thanks to his GOP buddies he is not in jail yet, for the fraud committed against our Medicare by Columbia HCA when he was its CEO.

  2. Geezer says:

    Amen palmcoaster, Amen.

    Florida voters conveniently put this out of their minds when they voted for governor.
    They figured that they’d rather have a white thief than a woman from the same party as
    the “black president.”

    A vote for Rick Scott was a way to send Obama a message.
    Message says: Florida is one big dumb state replete with racists and ignorami.

  3. "My Daily Rant" says:

    If he was guilty he would be in jail.Dont give me the old dem. crap that his REP. buddies got him off. The law is the law.As far as voting goes its the most important thing Americans do.I believe everybody should have to show a picture I.D.I see why the dems. would fight this because every Illegal will vote dem. giving them control.Its sickening to see the dems. make a mockery of our voting system to gain control but that is the only way they can.

  4. Dorothea says:

    @My Daily Rant

    Relax, having a picture ID in order to vote is already the law in Florida. I guess you haven’t voted for a while, because it’s been the law for some years now. Now go back and read the article. It’s not about picture IDs, it’s about Governor Rick Scott’s list of 180,000 voters that Scott has deemed not eligible to vote.

    @Geezer, you sure hit the nail on the head about Florida being “one big dumb state replete with racists and ignorami.”

  5. Dorothea says:

    Read this about the involvement of the Koch brothers and other billionairs in formulating this list.

    “Gov. Rick Scott of Florida is trying to purge state voter rolls just before a key election. The purge targets 180,000 Floridians—87% of which are people of color. It gives them 30 days to prove their citizenship and if they fail to do so within this time frame, they will not be eligible to vote. If this plan succeeds, thousands of voters will be disenfranchised and will have a serious, negative impact on the election. Keep in mind that Bush “won” Florida by a slim margin of 537 votes in 2000.

    Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning worked with Scott on the purge. Just before Scott selected Browning as Secretary in 2011, Browning led a group, Protect Your Vote Inc., which was created to oppose fair redistricting. One of the biggest checks that Browning’s organization received for $100,000 in 2010 was from the Center To Protect Patients’ Rights. At the time of the donation, the source of the money was cloaked in secrecy.

    Last month, Republic Report exclusively reported that Center To Protect Patients’ Rights is part of a collection of front groups funded by David and Charles Koch as well as other billionaires as part of an election-influencing effort. The Koch Brothers plan to use these front groups to finance $400 million of a $1 billion campaign in outside money to defeat President Obama as well as defeating congressional Democrats. Mitt Romney’s Super Pac and many other nonprofits run by Karl Rove will supply the other $600 million needed to accomplish their goal.

    Last week, the Department Of Justice (DOJ) sent a letter to Scott demanding a halt to the purge. Scott responded with a blatant disregard for the order and explained Florida’s plan to continue the purge.

    In April, Governor Scott began the purge by sending lists of over 2,600 suspected non-citizen voters to county election officials across the state. After reviewing the lists and Scott’s method of compiling non-citizen names, several officials (mostly Republican) have refused to comply with the state sanctioned voter purge, citing the lists as unreliable and suspect.”

    • Think first, act second says:

      Maybe they didn’t do it in an off election year or sooner because the POTUS Dept. of Homeland Sec was stonewalling the State of Florida. See this link:
      In the article it says :”As far as the timing of the purge and why it didn’t begin earlier in his tenure, Scott said, “We were waiting on the (U.S. Department of) Homeland Security database. So it just kept getting delayed. I’m responsible for the state, but my understanding is they just kept delaying it. .. There is no perfect time for doing any of these things. We just want fair elections. That’s what all of us want. This is not a partisan issue.”

      So far, the Homeland Security Department, which manages citizenship data, has refused to share its database with Florida.

      More than a 9 month delay from the Hispanic Secretary who wanted her illegal compadres to vote for the POTUS. The reasoning is obvious.

  6. Linda H. says:

    The checks and balances are in favor of the voter here. First, the Supervisor of Elections must send you a card of notification. You have 30 days in which to respond, to point out any efforts. And even after that, you may vote in person and cast a provisional ballot, but not by mail.

    The law protects the voter. Somehow, this very important fact was left out of your article, Senator Dockery.

    If people are being pulled unfairly, I’d like to see the list of names and hear from those who feel they have been disenfranchised. Don’t you think we have that right, to make sure our citizens are not being disenfranchised? This is how you run honest, open government.

  7. John Boy says:

    Has the Fraudster done anything that has not ended in a law suit, seems like maybe the ABA is using him to ensure full employment.

    Can’t get over how stupid he is yet he was elected by people in Florida who obviously have not learned to read an news story.. I have yet to meet a single person who will admit that they voted for Rick Scott. Maybe his elevation to office was simply another case of fraud.

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