Tilting the playing field in Florida

Updated
 
Tilting the playing field in Florida
Tilting the playing field in Florida
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It’s hardly a secret that Florida, home to 29 up-for-grabs electoral votes, will be one of the key 2012 battlegrounds. It’s the nation’s largest swing state, and whoever wins Florida will have an inside track to winning the White House.

Republicans in the Sunshine State, however, aren’t taking any chances, and are already taking steps to tilt the playing field.

Ari Berman has already documented many of the new voting restrictions approved by GOP policymakers over the last couple of years, including cracking down on voter-registration drives and limiting the number of days available for early voting.

But Florida Republicans, led by Gov. Rick Scott (R), aren’t quite done yet. In the newest push, the state, just six months before the election, is trying to purge non-citizens from the voting rolls, but in the process, has cast far too wide a net.

The state was found to be using a flawed process to pinpoint noncitizens on the voter rolls by relying on an outdated driver’s license database. Some of the people on an initial list of 2,700 possible noncitizens sent to county election supervisors were either naturalized citizens or were born in the United States. […]

The push to crack down on the way Floridians vote, and how they register to vote, is viewed by some as an effort to single out Democratic voters, many of them black and Hispanic. Florida has been accused in past elections of unfairly trying to remove from the rolls former felons who are eligible to vote.

The new scrub of registered voters is no different, said Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. “It’s a purging process that is based on what the state already acknowledges to be inaccurate information,” Mr. Simon said. “It really raises questions as to whether or not this is yet another partisan effort to scrub the voting rolls. We know it’s inaccurate because people from as far away as Pensacola to Miami have come forward to say, ‘I am a U.S. citizen. I am eligible to vote.’ “

That’s not at all an exaggeration.

Judd Legum has been all over this story for the last several days, including this report yesterday on the GOP’s “sloppy, chaotic and possibly illegal plan,” which ties together some key threads.

According to data obtained by ThinkProgress, in Miami-Dade county alone, 1638 people were flagged by the state as “non-citizens.” Already, 359 people on the list have provided the county with proof of citizenship and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county. The remaining 1200 have simply not responded to the letter informing them of their purported ineligibility. Similar problems have been identified inPolk County and Broward County. […]

A study by the Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls.” For example, Hispanics comprise 58 percent of the list but just 13 percent of eligible voters. Conversely, “Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.” […]

It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress. On or about June 9, anyone who hasn’t responded to the ominous and legalistic letter informing them of their purported ineligibility will be removed from the rolls. Some eligible voters won’t have been able to respond by that time due to travel, work obligations, family obligations or confusion as to the purpose of the letter. Some will forget to open it. Others may have moved.

Polls show Florida will likely be very competitive in November, and if 2012 is anything like the last few cycles, a tiny number of votes may well be the difference between victory and failure.

Rick Scott and Florida

Tilting the playing field in Florida

Updated