Florida Gov. Rick Scott during his State of the State speech Tuesday, March 4, 2014.
Phil Sears/AP Photo

A ‘one-two punch’ for Florida’s voter purge

As long-time readers no doubt recall, Republican officials in Florida went to considerable lengths in 2012 to make voting more difficult, closing the early-voting window, cracking down on voter-registration drives, and creating painfully long voting lines.
And then there was the “purge.” In the summer of 2012, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) launched an aggressive campaign to remove non-citizens from the state’s voter rolls. It didn’t go well – Scott’s administration used faulty data and targeted eligible voters, just five months before the election. Complicating matters, county elections supervisors statewide said Scott’s scheme was illegal, and they refused to enforce it.
According to a federal district court this week, the county supervisors were right. Zach Roth reported:
In a 2-1 decision, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that the purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which bars the systematic removal of voters from the rolls within 90 days of an election.
Florida conducted two separate efforts to remove non-citizens from the rolls before the last presidential election, drawing lawsuits from the U.S. Justice Department and voting-rights groups…. The Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted,” while whites and Republicans were the least likely.
Even at the time, there was a degree of shamelessness that even the most rabid GOP partisans found difficult to defend. In the hopes of addressing a problem that didn’t exist, the Republican governor of a key battleground state tried to purge Americans from the voter rolls, leaving affected citizens very little time to respond, and disproportionately targeting voters determined to be likely Democrats – including a 91-year-old World War II vet.
And for Scott, this wasn’t the end of the bad news.
The New York Times reported that Scott’s effort “to remove voters who are not American citizens from voter registration rolls, a subject of continuing political controversy, has suffered a one-two punch in the past week.” The appeals court ruling was one, a decision from the Secretary of State’s office was the other.
[E]ven before this week’s ruling by the Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit – which weighed in only on the timing of the noncitizen removal program – Florida’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, had decided to temporarily suspend the program.
In a memo last week to county election supervisors, Mr. Detzner said he would revisit the project after the Department of Homeland Security finished overhauling its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database. The overhaul is expected to conclude in 2015. The state planned to use the database this year to crosscheck the citizenship of voters.
That last sentence is worth appreciating. Scott and his team launched a pretty outrageous scheme in 2012, which was illegal and the subject of a national controversy. And yet, the governor and his administration were prepared to do it all again in 2014 anyway, despite the fact (because of the fact?) that Scott himself will be on the ballot in a competitive gubernatorial race.
Unfortunately for the governor, it appears he won’t have that opportunity.