Florida’s Misguided Voter Purge
Do you live in Florida, or are you registered to vote in the Sunshine State? Double-check your voter registration status today, because even if you’ve voted in every election for the last decade or five, your name may have been removed from the list of eligible voters.
With the 2012 election just months away, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has begun a purge of his state’s voter registration record in an attempt to “make sure the voter rolls are accurate,” according to a spokesman for the Governor. But clearing out names from the voter registration lists, which Florida has done by comparing the voter file with incomplete data from the state motor vehicle administration, is dangerous and irresponsible.
The process of using drivers’ license records (which do not contain updated citizenship information) to determine voting eligibility resulted in a list of 182,000 people who were eligible to be in the country but ineligible to vote (Florida requires voters to be U.S. citizens who live in the state). From there, the plan was to share the list with local elections supervisors and instruct them to remove from their voter rolls any individuals on the list. But the list seemed so flawed to then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning that he resigned from the position in February, while Governor Scott pushed on with the purge. According to an investigation conducted by ThinkProgress, 359 people of the thousands who were initially identified as non-citizens have provided their county with proof of citizenship, and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by their county.
According to an analysis by the Miami Herald, “Hispanic, Democratic, and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls.” While Latino voters make up 13% of the overall 11.3 million registered voters in Florida, their names comprise a majority (58%) of the list compiled by Governor Scott’s purge. Six members of Congress, including Representative Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), have sent a letter questioning the accuracy of the effort and asking Gov. Scott to suspend the purge.
Needless to say, as Jews as well as Americans, we are compelled to speak out about allegations of voter disenfranchisement and higher numbers of disqualified votes for citizens of color. Rabbi Yitzhak taught that “A ruler is not to be appointed unless the community is first consulted” (Babylonian Talmud Berachot 55a). Our voter registration lists should be accurately representative of our community, to be sure, but we should also take steps to ensure these lists represent all eligible members of the community, regardless of ethnicity, race, and party affiliation (not to mention religion, gender identity, sexual preference, and other traditionally underrepresented or historically disenfranchised minorities). Florida should be expanding and modernizing its voter registration lists– not sloppily removing eligible citizens.