Obama Administration Backs Down on Florida Voter Purge
The Obama administration and the Department of Justice have been battling with the State of Florida for months over their efforts to clean up the state’s voter rolls. Suddenly, without warning, the federal government has relented granting Florida rights to the use a law enforcement database to challenge people’s right to vote if they are suspected of not being U.S. citizens.
Actually it wasn’t totally without warning; a judge recently ruled in favor of Florida in a related voter-purge case. Choosing to back down was also spurred on by recent polling that showed voters, especially in the “sunshine state” supported the purging of illegal voters from the state’s registered voter list.
The agreement, obtained by The Associated Press, was in the form of a letter to Florida Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration, granting the state access to a list of resident noncitizens maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.
Numerous voting rights groups have voiced concern that the data would be used for purposes other than purging voter lists of ineligible people, insisting that voter purges so close to a presidential election would leave insufficient time to correct mistakes stemming from faulty data or other problems.
At the same time Democrats claim GOP-controlled states’ requirements to require voters to show photo identification is of even greater concern.
Nonetheless the government’s concession is a huge victory for Republicans in their fight over voter eligibility which will likely have a significant role in the upcoming White House race, especially in the critical states of North Carolina, Florida, Colorado and Nevada.
While GOP officials express that ineligible voter purges and photo ID requirements are only intended to combat voter fraud. Democrats, however, claim that proven cases of voter fraud are rare and Republicans are intending to suppress voting by people in lower socio-economic groups who tend to vote Democrat.
If, as Democrats claim, voter fraud is rare, than the likelihood that an eligible voter will be purged or the requirement for a voter ID will suppress voting should even be rarer. Could the true intent of Democrats be to get as many votes as possible regardless of whether the votes are valid?
Several other states have asked for access to the federal database that is now available to Florida, so further ineligible voter purges are quite likely.
When the judge ruled against federal government and in favor of Florida’s voter-list review, the Homeland Security Department agreed to work on details for how the state can access the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system to rid state voter rolls of registered voters suspected of being non-citizens.
Access to the federal SAVE database will only allow Florida to challenge voter registrations for foreigners living in the country legally, with visas or other permits such as green cards. Legal aliens are not allowed to vote unless they become naturalized citizens, however many thousands are believed to have registered to vote based on Democrat voter registration drives, that often tell people that they can register even though that are not allowed to vote. States without access to federal alien registration records cannot crosscheck their voter rolls to remove illegally registered aliens.
Gov. Scott’s administration sued Homeland Security for access to the SAVE list and said the agreement “marks a significant victory for Florida and for the integrity of our election system.”
“Access to the SAVE database will ensure that noncitizens do not vote in future Florida elections,” Gov. Scott said in a statement Saturday.
A Homeland Security spokesman said Saturday the agency had no further comment.
Florida now will restart the voter registration purge that was hindered by faulty data and roadblocks put up by the federal government. Using primarily driver’s license information, the initial review turned up 2,625 suspected noncitizens registered to vote in Florida alone.
Florida officials admit that the initial review wasn’t perfect but that access to the federal data will allow a more reliable review of voter rolls.
One of the major failures of the Motor Voter Act imposed during the 1990s was that many legal residents unwittingly violated the law during the process of obtaining a driver’s license, assuming they could vote. Access to the federal SAVE list should allow Florida to catch these ineligible voters.
Despite the recent court decision and the Obama administration’s agreement to grant access to the SAVE database, voter-rights groups have expressed concerns about Florida’s efforts to clean up their rolls.
“No matter what database Florida has access to, purging voters from the rolls using faulty criteria on the eve of an election could prevent thousands of eligible voters from exercising their rights,” said Jonathan Brater, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. “Florida must use a more transparent and accurate process, and must leave enough time for voters targeted for removal to be notified and correct errors,” he said.
Access to the database by other state governments has been withheld for years; even during the Bush administration, Federal officials told Washington state that they saw no way to compare voter rolls to the Homeland Security information.
Colorado has been asking for access for more than a year. Colorado, which has a Democratic governor but a Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, says the state has identified about 5,000 registered voters that it wants to check against the federal information.
Officials in the politically competitive states of Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico and Iowa are backing Gessler’s efforts.
Gessler said 430 registered voters have acknowledged being ineligible, but an “unenforceable honor system does not build confidence in our elections.”
Gessler also is seeking information from jails in 10 of the state’s largest counties for persons held on “immigration detainers” since 2010, according to the Denver Post.
Voting is one of the greatest privileges of citizenship and whether our leaders are Republican or Democrat, they should all support valid and legal voting. Should anyone be elected to public office based on illegal votes the entire process loses credibility and politicians are difficult enough to tolerate as it is.
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