Providing supervisors of elections with the documentation they want before removing potential non-citizens from the voting rolls shouldn’t be a problem, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said Monday.
Detzner will be traveling the state next month to meet with local elections officials before resuming a controversial voter purge that spawned lawsuits and sparked an outcry from civil and voting rights groups because the majority of the flagged voters were minorities.
Detzner announced last week that he is holding meetings in five cities beginning in Jacksonville on Oct. 3 to get their input on what he calls “Project Integrity.” The voter purge tour and the chat with supervisors is part of preparing for the 2014 elections, he said.
The supervisors, the only ones who have the authority to remove voters from the rolls, have said they won’t participate unless the state provides documentation that the voters are not citizens and therefore not eligible to vote. They want the same back-up the Division of Elections sends regarding voters who have been convicted of felonies, found mentally incompetent by a court or have died.
Detzner noted that state law requires the division to provide “credible and reliable” information to supervisors when voters are targeted for removal “and if they want documentation I’ll need to provide that.”
Florida’s access to the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database, will make that easier, Detzner said.
“I don’t know why we couldn’t provide them any documentation,” Detzner said. “I think we’ll be able to give them validation through the SAVE database and something in writing.”
Detzner was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott, who has pushed for the non-citizen purge.
Last year, Detzner’s office sent supervisors a list of 2,600 potential non-citizens registered to vote. His department sent the supervisors spreadsheets with the names of the voters and instructed them to send letters to the flagged voters telling them they had to prove they were citizens if they wanted to vote in the November election.
Supervisors dropped the purge after discovering that many of the targeted voters on Detzner’s list, generated by matching voter lists and driver’s license records, were naturalized citizens. Some were even born in the U.S.
Of the 2,600 targeted voters, 85 were found to be ineligible to vote and dropped from the rolls. After the U.S. Department of Justice sued Scott over the purge, Scott took the Obama administration to court to get access to the database. A deal between the state and DHS was struck last year.
Advancement Project and other groups representing Hispanic voters sent a letter to the state’s 67 supervisors last week asking them to reject the purge and raised concerns about the accuracy of the SAVE database.
But Detzner said that SAVE is the only database that keeps track of citizenship and acknowledged that last year’s purge was problematic.
“Sometimes people make mistakes. I’m willing to say that we learned from the experience but we didn’t have access to the federal database,” he said. “I would never have continued a program without access to that. Now that we have it I’m very comfortable. I’m confident that we will do the right job, be fair and it will provide supervisors with credible and reliable information.”