Gov. Rick Scott and the Advancement Project have agreed to settle part of a suit over his noncitizen voter purge, but that doesn't mean noncitizens won't be purged.
Scott's elections division reported today that it has "confirmed" 207 noncitizens on the voter rolls out of a pool of about 1,700 potential noncitizens whose names were checked in a federal immigration database called SAVE. Some of the registered voters had previously admitted they weren't citizens, but most were found due to the SAVE search, said elections division spokesman Chris Cate.
"The information about these voters will be provided to State Attorneys to investigate as well," Cate said. "It's a felony to provide false information on a voter registration application or to vote as a noncitizen."
Cate said the state was only able to use SAVE to check 1,700 names of people on a list of about 2,600 who were identified as potential noncitizens because the federal government requires the state to use a unique "alien" identifier to check the citizenship status of immigrants.
The original list of 2,600 names was determined by the state after checking its voter rolls with a motor vehicle database that contained some outdated citizenship information.
Earlier today, the Advancement Project noted it settled a major part of its suit with Scott's administration, which agreed to restore a few dozen people to the voting rolls who hadn't been proven to be noncitizens. Those voters were removed because they failed to respond to local elections offices and confirm their citizenship.
It's unclear how many of those voters to be restored to the rolls match the voters who were "confirmed" through the SAVE checks.
"We have no confirmed cases of people who were wrongly removed," Cate said.
The state is still fighting in court for the right to remove noncitizens 90 days before an election. Voting advocates say that violates a federal law.
"The citizens of Florida have taken another step toward realizing the right to vote, without any undue barriers imposed by the state,” Advancement Project Co-Director Penda D. Hair said in a written statement. “The lawsuit and settlement show that all citizens should have the same right to cast a ballot without confronting unfounded questions about their eligibility to vote. We congratulate our partners: LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, SEIU, the law firm of Jenner & Block and Gerald Hebert for their hard work in gaining this important victory for democracy.”
TALLAHASSEE –The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database as well as personal admissions from illegally registered voters have confirmed 207 non-citizens have been on Florida’s voter rolls. The confirmed names will be provided to county supervisors of elections shortly after supervisors complete their federal training on how to use the SAVE database, which they are expected to do this week.
“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. “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.”
Department of State employees recently completed their training on how to use the SAVE database. Since training has been completed, these employees have been checking the legal status of 2,625 potential non-citizens whose names were provided to supervisors of elections in April. Following the review of these potential non-citizens, the department will conduct a new matching process with the state’s driver’s license database to identify additional potential non-citizens whose current status needs to be confirmed by the SAVE database.
Under the department’s new Voter Eligibility Initiative using the SAVE database, no names of potential non-citizens will be sent to supervisors of elections without having first been reviewed by DOS, checked by the federal SAVE database and verified by SAVE as noncitizens. When a supervisor of elections receives information from DOS that a registered voter is a potential non-citizen, the supervisor must begin the statutory notice and removal process. Potential non-citizens will be provided an explanation of the basis for their potential ineligibility and an opportunity to request a hearing to dispute the determination of potential ineligibility.
In response to the department’s new process to identify non-citizens on the voter rolls earlier this summer, plaintiffs in the Arcia vs. Detzner case today dismissed three counts in their complaint that challenged the previous process. The only count remaining in the Arcia vs. Detzner case now focuses on the 90 day timeframe. In a separate lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), a federal judge upheld Florida’s right to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls whenever they are identified. The judge said that the state and federal government should work together because illegally registered non-citizens voting constitutes “irreparable harm” to Florida and its voters.