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Our Opinion: The purge

Jan 21 • 153 Views • View Comments

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Solving a problem that doesn’t exist

Tallahassee Democrat // Editorial

Sparking howls from Democrats and the NAACP, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said this week that his office soon would begin Voter Purge 2.0, by sending local supervisors of elections the names of voters who might not be citizens.

Who could disagree with the idea that only eligible citizens should vote? But there is more to the issue.

First, the purge is a solution in search of a problem. The number of noncitizens registered to vote is minuscule, mostly because there is no incentive for intentional fraud. What immigrant would risk deportation for the small reward of casting one vote? In fact, “The Truth About Voter Fraud,” a 2007 report by Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, stated: “We are not aware of any documented cases in which individual noncitizens have either intentionally registered to vote or voted while knowing that they were ineligible.”

Second, serious checks are already in place, thanks to an effective state database. Before a person ever votes, the registration application is scanned and transmitted to the Department of State, where it is cross-checked by driver’s license or Social Security number. The registration is mailed to a street address (not a P.O. box) and is nonforwardable. “It’s heifer dust to say that Mickey Mouse can register to vote,” Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho said.

Finally, the solution is ineffective. An attempted purge in 2012 was a fiasco, with a list of 182,000 suspected noncitizens being pared to 2,600 and then to about 200 before being ditched altogether. The state now has turned to the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. But the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has said this database is not a good way to check citizenship, and in 2012 Colorado abandoned a similar effort using the SAVE database.

So why do it? A cynic might look at previous decisions in Florida — reductions in early voting before the 2012 election, refusal to open more early voting sites, a backlog in restoring felons’ voting rights, a recent decision to limit the way absentee ballots can be returned — and conclude that there is an effort to keep certain voters away from the polls.

“We are not employed to disenfranchise eligible voters,” said Mr. Sancho, speaking for himself and other county supervisors of elections. Once again, local supervisors may help save Florida from this waste of time and money.

 

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