by: John Rodriguez
In an effort to “clean” up the voter rolls in Florida, officials of the state began to remove an estimated 182,000 suspected noncitizens from its voter rolls. Over the last four weeks, the secretary of state office of Florida has identified and saw to the removal of at least 50,000 dead voters and 7,000 convicted felons. While the names removed falls under the law, Florida officials are defending their more controversial plan which is to remove what is believed to be 182,000 names from the voter’s roll belonging to American Citizens. A plan purely based on assumption.
The removal of said “suspected” noncitizens has drawn attention from coalitions who find Florida’s removal wrong yet old and familiar Floridian tactics during an election period. Director of voter protection projects for the Advancement Project–a nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C that’s sole purpose is to protect voter rights–Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez has said Florida’s recent actions is entirely not new and that the state “has a very shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information before presidential elections.”
Along with four other organizations the Advancement Project have a warned Florida officials to stop their cleaning process of their voter rolls and have even called upon the Department of Justice to put an end to Florida’s action and investigate what they have done. “What’s happening now is not only illegal but it’s inaccurate. There are actual citizens on these lists,” Culliton-Gonzalez argued, “What’s happening is completely counter to the fundamental principles of our democracy.”
Home to at least 11.3 million, Florida holds national attention during the electoral period since the state holds 29 electoral votes. With the state holding so much of the electoral votes the sunshine state becomes a battleground between Democrats and Republican candidates. While it is considered a battleground state, Florida has typically come out in favor of the Republican candidate.
Mainly a Republican state some opponents against the cleaning up of the voter rolls is a Republican agenda to keep the party in power. Last year, nearly 3 dozen Republican state legislatures have considered or have passed laws pertaining to the voting process system. One changed involved potential voters being required to carry valid photo IDs. Also, some of the passed legislation restricted early voting sites in churches and various other locations where minority voters go to vote. These new laws even limited organizations that help register voters. Although some of these changes are in effect, many are pending and awaiting court decisions.
At the height of this cleansing of the voter rolls, the staff of Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner worked with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to identify an estimated 3,000 alleged noncitizens that are registered to vote. A spokesman for Detzner stated the voters “in question were not citizens at the time they applied for a Florida driver’s license,” meaning they fall under the lens to be removed from the roll.
And while these 3,000 or so individuals have been slated to be purged from the roll, Detzner appointed county-level election officials to notify them to inform them they will not be listed on the roll unless they are able to prove their citizenship in 30 days. This notification was sent out early in May. In a statement released in May about the process to remove voters from the roll, Detzner stated that “the presence of just one ineligible voter on the state’s voting rolls represents a real threat to the integrity of the voting process.”
Project Vote, a national nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C which works to empower and educate low income and under-represented voters to vote, has said the current attempt to clean up the voter rolls is similar to the 2000 election. Media Director of Project Vote, Sarah Massey has said that “In 2000, thousands were purged [from the voter rolls] in Florida and thousands couldn’t vote,” reminding those of the election between former President Geogre W. Bush against then Vice President Al Gore and how because of the removal of names which kept some from voting ultimately resulted in “an election that was ultimately called by the Supreme court and that just can’t happen again.”
On the current list of those to be removed an analysis from Miami Herald found that nearly 60% of the names belong to members of the Latino community. In response to these findings a coalition of advocacy groups find the list to be damaging to the Latino community in Florida since it greatly misrepresents the interest of the community. As of now there is still a list of people to be removed from the voter rolls waiting for approval from Florida legislative system.