Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As the presidential campaign kicks into high gear over the summer, Florida is once again expected to be a key swing state that could decide who will occupy the White House. But troubling questions are coming up as the state seeks to purge voter rolls.
Since he took office, Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Republican legislature have enacted laws to clamp down on third part voter registration efforts and reduced the number of early voting days. Both measures have been challenged in court by the Justice Department.
The Justice Department told a court in March, Florida hasn’t demonstrated that “the proposed voting changes neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on the basis of race, color, or membership.”
Scott has since ordered the state to purge what was originally 182,000 voters, but later reduced to 2700, off the voting rolls because they were non-citizens. However, the state used an outdated drivers license database to compile the list of non-citizens, according to the New York Times.
As the voter purge has continued, countless examples of naturalized and other legal citizens inclusion on the list have come to light, including a World War II veteran CBS4 profiled. Critics have charged the purge unfairly targets Hispanics, African-Americans, and Democrats in the state.
Historically, if voter turnout is high, as it was in 2008, Democrats have a much higher likelihood of winning. Conversely, if voter turnout is lower, Republicans typically perform much better in elections.
Tuesday, a group of Democratic Congressional Representatives and Democrat Bill Nelson all requested Scott to stop the voter purge in it’s tracks.
“The public’s confidence in the right to vote is essential in a democracy,” Senator Nelson wrote in his letter to Scott, according to CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald. “Attempts to purge the voter roll so soon after signing one of the nation’s most controversial voting laws raises concern, especially among young and minority voters. I hope you will consider these thoughts and observations as you serve as chief executive of our state.”
Scott and Republicans in the legislature said the measures were needed to combat voter fraud in the state. Florida Republican Chair Lenny Curry said Nelson “defends” the right of dead, non-citizen voters, according to the Herald.
If the fighting over purged voter rolls sounds familiar to Floridians, it’s because a similar purged happened before the election between George W. Bush and Al Gore in 2000.
During that purge, thousands of eligible voters were erroneously listed as felons, which prevented them from voting, according to National Public Radio. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris headed up the 2000 voter roll purge.
The original purge this year was given to former Secretary of State Kurt Browning. Before the list was released, Browning resigned his post.
According to the state Division of Elections, the state will continue to purge the rolls despite the controversy.
“We won’t be sending any new names to supervisors until the information we have is updated, because we always want to make sure we are using the best information available,” Elections spokesman Chris Cate said in an email to the Miami Herald. “I don’t have a timetable on when the next list of names will be sent to supervisors, but there will be more names.”
Florida isn’t the only state trying to purge the voter rolls ahead of the November election. Colorado and New Mexico are trying to purge voter rolls of non-citizens.