Florida Secretary of State To Begin Meetings Over Looming Voter Purge

Gov. Rick Scott's second round of non-citizen voter purges are kicking off with public meetings in October. (Photo via Flgov.com)

Gov. Rick Scott’s second round of non-citizen voter purges are kicking off with public meetings in October. (Photo via Flgov.com)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

State officials are getting ready to restart their effort to remove alleged non-citizens from the Florida’s voter rolls by holding a series of public meetings.

In 2012, the state first took on the task, but its process was rife with errors. The main problem was the state’s list of suspected non-citizens. Many people on the list were indeed citizens and had to prove it to their local election supervisor right before that year’s presidential election.

State and national voting rights and civil rights group opposed the state’s voter purge and claimed that the state’s list predominately targeted minority voters very close to a national election.

However, now before the 2014 gubernatorial election in Florida Gov. Rick Scott wants to reboot the purge. This time the state is cross checking lists with a federal immigration database, which officials have said will make the list more reliable this time. According to The Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times:

Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced in a statement that he would begin a roundtable discussion with the state’s 67 supervisor of elections in a series of five public meetings across the state in October. (Sorry Tampa Bay and Miami-Dade, the closest meetings are in Sarasota and Ft. Lauderdale.)

Called “Project Integrity”, the meetings will be an opportunity for Detzner to hear from supervisors about how to conduct another purge.

“I am embarking on the Project Integrity roundtable tour to collaborate with Supervisors to protect the integrity of our voter rolls,” Detzner said in the statement.

He’s creating a new list of suspected noncitizen voters by cross-checking state voter data with a federal database managed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Detzner’s director of elections, Maria Matthews, sent a letter to election supervisors on Aug. 2, promising “responsible measures that ensure due process and the integrity of Florida’s voter rolls” and vowing to include supervisors “in the planning and decision-making.”

This time the state is including local supervisors of elections – who ultimately remove a resident from voter rolls—from the beginning.  In 2012, supervisors were not included in decisions on how to carry out the statewide voter purge. At the time, once many of them noticed actual citizens were included on the state’s list, they halted the purge.

Almost all of the state’s 67 supervisors of elections stopped sending out letters to people on the list after lawyers and voting rights advocates sent warnings out about the list’s problems. The state is doing things differently this time to have more cooperation with election officials.

However, the News Service of Florida reports that there are still some supervisors weary of the state’s non-citizen voter purge.

But despite the spin put on “Project Integrity” by Detzner’s office, his announcement immediately drew fire from Pasco County Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, who tweeted: “There is no greater ‘voter advocate’ or ‘voter roll integrity advocate’ than a Supervisor of Elections!”

…Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles said he was contacted by Detzner’s office Tuesday and asked to provide space for a meeting, scheduled in Orlando on Oct. 7.

“All the supervisors are going to be concerned about why we’re doing it now and what has changed since the last time,” Cowles said.

Polk County elections supervisor Lori Edwards, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, said local officials’ willingness to participate will depend on the integrity of the data provided by the state.

…”We’re going to repeatedly request from the Division of Elections that before they send us the information, they carefully scrutinize the data and make sure it’s reliable. Providing documentation is the key. If you can show me that they’re here on a green card, fine. Then I’ll say hey, you might not be a citizen. But if you just say they’re on some list somewhere, that’s not enough,” she said.

This summer, a U.S. District Court in Tampa lifted a five-month old stay that was preventing officials in Florida from sending any new names of potential non-U.S. citizens to supervisors of elections. That stay, which was lifted after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, was one of the main things standing in the way of another voter purge.

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