Florida’s Voter Purge: End in Sight?
Responding to a harsh rebuke from the U.S. Department of Justice, Florida elections supervisors announced late last Friday that they will stop using a flawed list of potential non-citizens to purge voter registration lists.
The Justice Department sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner the day before, saying that the voter purge appears to violate at least two federal voting laws and asking Detzner to inform the department by June 6 as to “whether the State intends to cease the practice [of using motor vehicle registry lists to update voting eligibility]… so that the Department can determine what further action, if any, is necessary.” The DOJ letter appeared to be a friendly reminder to state officials that Florida is subject to the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, which created standards for maintaining voter registration lists. Several counties in Florida also fall under the jurisdiction of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires DOJ to review proposed changes to voting laws due to a history of institutionalized racial discrimination in these areas. Florida had not sought the appropriate review under Section 5, the letter points out, before beginning the purge.
“There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue,” said Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, in explaining why the state’s 67 elections supervisors would stop using the list of potential non-citizens that was compiled in the last two months under the directive of Governor Rick Scott (R).
Too many variables, indeed: 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). This list was next shared with local elections supervisors who were instructed 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 in protest. According to an investigation conducted by ThinkProgress, 359 people of the thousands who were initially identified as non-citizens (including at least one WWII veteran) have provided their county with proof of citizenship, and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by their county.
Florida must now reconcile mounting pressure from Governor Scott, who has pushed on with the purge, with oversight from the Justice Department and citizens groups that demand state officials redress these irresponsible and potentially illegal lists. Stay tuned for more.
Image courtesy of Common Cause.