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Florida Oranges? How About Sour Grapes? Gov. Scott Tries Again to Purge Voters from the Rolls

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In the lead up to the 2012 election, Florida Governor Rick Scott made news by attempting to purge 182,000 voters from the voting rolls. This was part of a voter suppression plan that included ending early voting, cracking down on voter registration drives, and creating long lines in precincts in poor and minority neighborhoods.  In the end, the plan failed as a majority of county elections supervisors refused to enforce the law they viewed as illegal.  198 people were removed from the polls in all.

Now, the former Tea Party favorite is attempting to purge the voter rolls again. Scott’s “hunt for non-citizens” will use the same tactics as his previous attempt:

Similar searches a year ago were rife with errors, found few ineligible voters and led to lawsuits by advocacy groups that said it disproportionately targeted Hispanics, Haitians and other minority groups. Those searches were handled clumsily and angered county election supervisors, who lost confidence in the state’s list of names.

“It was sloppy, it was slapdash and it was inaccurate,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards. “They were sending us names of people to remove because they were born in Puerto Rico. It was disgusting.”

In just the 10 months that have passed since Scott failed to implement racist de facto voting laws, enough has changed that he may fare better (read: worse).  The Supreme Court has struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act meaning fewer barriers stand in Gov. Scott’s maniacal way:

Election supervisors remain wary of a new removal effort, which the U.S. Supreme Court effectively authorized in June when it struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act. That ruling nullified a federal lawsuit in Tampa that sought to stop new searches for noncitizen voters, and Scott quickly renewed his call for action.

“If there’s anybody that we think isn’t voting properly, from the standpoint that they didn’t have a right to vote, I think we need to do an investigation,” Scott said the day of the high court decision. Last fall, Scott joined the Republican Party in a fundraising appeal that accused Democrats of defending the right of noncitizens to vote.

Scott’s top elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, is now creating a new list of suspected noncitizen voters by cross-checking state voter data with a federal database managed by the Department of Homeland Security.

Detzner’s director of elections, Maria Matthews, sent a letter to election supervisors Friday, promising “responsible measures that ensure due process and the integrity of Florida’s voter rolls” and vowing to include supervisors “in the planning and decision-making.”

Scott’s plan now has more legal precedent. The promise to take it slow could make for a more efficient process, but the goal remains the same: Take voting rights away from Florida residents or, more specifically, making citizens prove how American they are.


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