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Florida Halts Voter Purge


In an election-year U-turn, Gov. Rick Scott's administration is dropping a problematic voter purge aimed at keeping non-U.S. citizens from casting ballots.

Scott first pushed to have the state look for non-U.S. citizens on the rolls before the 2012 election. But many election supervisors, however, wound up not removing anyone after questions arose about the law and the accuracy of the list.

Sec. of State Ken Detzner had been at work since 2012 on how to use SAVE -- the federal “Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements” database -- to vet registered voters. He kicked off his "Project Integrity Tour" in October, aimed at assuring election supervisors that this voter purge would go more smoothly than the first.

Fast-forward to Thursday, when Detzner informed supervisors of the delay until next year. He cites changes now underway to the federal database by the Department of Homeland Security.

David Stafford, Escambia County’s Elections Supervisor, says along with the database, the other major concern is conducting such an operation in the middle of the 2014 election cycle. Detzner’s decision also comes amid lingering doubts from supervisors who remain skeptical of the state's ability to identify such voters accurately.

An initial purge before the 2012 elections found some ineligible voters, but it also wrongly identified U-S citizens. Stafford says over the past six months, he and his 66 fellow supervisors have consistently tried to get information from the Sec. of State’s office on just when the purge would resume.

Since the purge originates from the state, Stafford says they’re in “wait and see” mode. But he adds that the review, at some point, will continue.

Groups that fought the state on the voter purge are now hailing Sec. of State Detzner's postponement. The ACLU called the plan irresponsible on Gov. Scott’s part, to  “undermine faith in our elections by creating fear that our voter rolls were filled with illegitimate voters, when there was no evidence to suggest it."