Tallahassee - Despite warnings from the Department of Justice and objections from county elections officials, Florida's Secretary of State plans to continue the effort to scrub the state's voter registration rolls.
In a letter issued by the Justice Department Thursday, T. Christian Herren Jr warned Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the state's effort to purge its voter registration rolls of potential ineligible voters appeared to be in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act.
Herren, who leads the Justice Department voting section, also contends that Florida is also in violation of federal law which (according to the National Voter Registration Act) requires states to complete changes to their registration rolls 90 days before a federal election.
Florida's primary election is August 14 which means officials have already missed the May 14 deadline.
In response to the letter, Chris Cate, a spokesman for Detzner said Friday: “We have an obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate and we are going to continue forward and do everything that we can legally do to make sure than ineligible voters cannot vote,” said Cate. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot. We are not going to give up our efforts to make sure the voter rolls are accurate."
The purge started in April and so far the state says it has identified approximately 2,600 voters which are deemed as suspicious and sent them letters demanding proof of citizenship to avoid being stricken from the voter rolls. The 2,600 number is a revision from the state's original estimate of nearly 180,000 non-citizens registered to vote.
The effort compares lists of registered voters with driver's license records which contains information on citizenship. However, according to a Miami Herald analysis, Florida's recent list of possible non-citizen voters contains many lawful citizens and found nearly 60 percent of the people on the list to be Hispanic, just 13 percent of the state's electorate.
Some voting rights advocates say the method used by the state is an unreliable way to determine a voter's citizenship, pointing out that many people become citizens between license renewals.
In Miami-Dade County, election officials recently issued 1,570 warning letters to potential ineligible voters, and according to the county chief deputy supervisor of elections Christina White, only 13 of them have been removed from the voter rolls after indicating they are not citizens. And of the 13 removed, said White, just two have allegedly voted illegally and "their names will be forwarded to the state’s attorney’s office for possible prosecution as required by law."
However, Miami-Dade County will not purge other voters from the rolls, said White. “The law says that the supervisor, only on a preponderance of evidence, should be removing people form the rolls," White explained. “We just didn’t feel that we didn’t have the preponderance of evidence that the supervisor needs to make a call on someone’s eligibility at this time that we haven’t heard from.”