Florida Voters Scrutinized In Controversial Program

Jan 6, 2014

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner says his office will soon begin forwarding the names of suspected non-citizens on the voter rolls to local elections officials. The move formally kicks off the second attempt at a controversial scrubbing program.

Detzner has been at work since 2012 on how to use SAVE -- the federal “Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements” database -- to vet registered voters. Florida came under heavy criticism for a number of problems at the polls on Election Day ’12 – when hundreds of Americans were asked to prove their citizenship, or risk losing the right to vote.
Detzner kicked off his "Project Integrity Tour" in October, aimed at assuring election supervisors that this voter purge will go more smoothly than his initial effort.

The Secretary of State is placing his hopes for a smoother process on the SAVE system. It contains data from agencies such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Coast Guard. Stafford says another plus is that spreadsheets are replaced with going case-by-case.  

Initially, the new process will be used only on new voter-registration applications. They’ll again be matched with Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles driver’s license records, which include an “alien registration number” for non-citizens. Under state law, any potentially ineligible Florida resident will be notified of their status – and there is an appeals process if needed.

Purging the voter rolls is the brainchild of Gov. Rick Scott, who sought and received access to the federal SAVE database to cross-check names on Florida’s voter lists. Litigation against the purge filed by voting groups representing minorities – mostly Hispanics -- was dismissed in July, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Many say that this is a tactic by Scott to amp up the conservative base for his re-election campaign. Another opponent of continuing the removal of names from the voter rolls is former Gov. Charlie Crist – a Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat who is running for his old job. He says a purge would make it much more difficult for Floridians to cast ballots.

Sec. of State Ken Detzner has sent a proposed "memorandum of agreement" to the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections. Once signed, it will allow local supervisors to double-check the information of a suspected non-citizen to make sure no eligible voters are removed from the rolls.