Florida: Different Year, Same Old Story

Posted By: Courtney Mills

Post Date: Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The state of Florida has incorrectly identified numerous citizens for removal from the voter rolls leading up to the November election, leaving numerous groups questioning the motivation behind the purge and reminding many of the faulty voter purges that took place in 2000 and 2004.

The Florida Division of Elections recently made headlines by announcing that a shocking 180,000 non-citizens could be on the list of registered voters in Florida alone. Despite noting that the list was not guaranteed to be accurate, the release of the names created a large stir with numerous outlets reporting on the shockingly high number.

Of the initial 180,000 voters, the Division of Elections targeted 2,600 supposed non-citizen voters after vetting the broader list. These names were sent to local Supervisors of Elections to be removed from the rolls, leading counties to send notices asking for follow up action by the voter within 30 days. Those who failed to act would be removed from the rolls.

The targeted voters are overwhelmingly Hispanic, the largest minority population in the state.  Numerous targeted voters have now come forward to prove their citizenship, with some showing their proof of naturalization and others showing proof that they were born in the United States. 

The matching process and the resulting list of supposed non-citizens has been proven untrustworthy. The purging of these voters violates the National Voting Rights Act due to its targeted removal of a selected group and its proximity to the election. In light of this, the Fair Elections Legal Network, along with the Advancement Project, Project Vote, Latino Justice, the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition, and LULAC Florida joined together to demand the state stop purging voters leading up to the August 14 primary and the November election in violation of federal law [Listen to an interview with Robert Brandon on WMNF (NPR affiliate in Tampa, Florida) regarding the letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

But voter protection groups are not alone in their concerns about the purging process. Supervisors of Elections have noted that removing voters this close to the election raises obvious concerns over political motivations. Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who resigned from his position this year, was not convinced of the accuracy of the data that Governor Rick Scott requested of him and refused to send the information to Supervisors of Elections.

As the list of citizens who are present on the supposed non-citizen list continues to grow, we must ask why the state is unwilling to halt the process to ensure that all rightful voters have their rights protected. Why is Rick Scott determined to make voting harder in Florida, with the results being some rightful voters being challenged despite being born American citizens? This is starting to appear more like 2000 and 2004. It appears Florida simply hasn’t learned from its previous mistakes.