Florida resumed its controversial voter purge Sept. 26, as elections officials produced a new list of 198 potential noncitizens for removal.
The list was created from the state’s examination of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program database, according to a press release from the Florida Department of State.
The action is being conducted less than two months before Election Day.
“The Voter Eligibility Initiative is already proving to be a successful process to identify illegally registered voters on Florida’s voter rolls,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner in a statement.
“We want every Florida voter to be confident that their vote is protected and not hurt in any way by the illegal activity of others. We know that every vote counts, especially here in Florida where only 537 votes decided the presidential election in 2000,” he added.
Initially, Florida officials had identified 180,000 potential non-citizens to be purged from the voter rolls. The process was stopped when the list was found to be error-laden.
Gov. Rick Scott resumed the process Sept. 26 after the list was reduced to 2,600 names, according to ThinkProgress, a weblog produced online by the non-partisan Center for American Progress Action Fund.
The list has been forwarded to local election supervisors, who are ultimately responsible for maintaining the voter rolls. Those flagged as potential noncitizens will be sent a certified letter and will have 30 days in which to prove they are citizens. If they fail to do so, they can be purged. If the certified letter is returned as undeliverable, the individual will have another 30 days in which to prove his/her citizenship.
But, like its predecessor, this voter purge is proving problematic, The Miami Herald reported. Some individuals on the list say they are citizens. Yeral Arroliga, 25, who was swept up in the initial voter purge list, said he already sent proof of citizenship earlier in the summer. While he plans to send the documentation again, Arroglia—who emigrated from Nicaragua in 1995—said he is not happy.
“It sounds like you have Big Brother watching over you,” he told The Herald. “I don’t know what’s going on.”
Others on the list confirmed they aren’t citizens. Still others, among 36 individuals identified as having voted before, denied the charge. Only one admitted she had voted before.
The program continues to face censure from civil rights groups and the Department of Justice, who filed lawsuits to stop Florida’s initial program. As with the initial purge, citizens may be swept into the purge and possibly disenfranchised, they argue. And the measure disproportionately targets minorities, who tend to vote Democrat.
According to a Herald analysis, of the 198 potential noncitizens on the registration rolls, 58 percent are minority — 41 percent Hispanic and 17 percent Black. Democrats account for 44 percent of the list; Republicans, 16 percent and independents account for about 40 percent.
The purge is being initiated only six weeks before November’s general election, opponents say, and not only does that violate federal law that requires changes to be made at least 90 days in advance, but it increases the chances for voter disenfranchisement.
“Our position is that it’s not appropriate to remove anyone from the rolls like this 90 days before an election. Mistakes can be made and we are urging caution,” said Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project in the Herald story.
Even local election officials are concerned about the use of SAVE and the limited time frame of this purge.
“I went through the SAVE training today—it’s the most convoluted thing you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s awful,” Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall, a Republican, told ThinkProgress. “Even if they got the list of names to us tomorrow, there wouldn’t be time. That person has due process. Anyone has due process in the state and country.”