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Detzner: "I accept responsibility" for non-citizen voter search woes

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner concluded his statewide "Project Integrity" tour today to chat with county elections officials about revamped procedures for the next round of the search for non-citizen voters.

Detzner would provide no ballpark timeline -- he wouldn't say whether he'll start the process this year. The biggest pushback he faced today was from Palm Beach County Supervisor Susan Bucher, a Democrat elected to a nonpartisan office. She peppered him with questions about the federal SAVE database the state will use this time (and gained access to late in the process last time.)

“Where does that data come from, how often is it updated: every 10 years or every 10 minutes? ... I have a lot of concern that the people we got the database from are saying this is not comprehensive and definitive,” Bucher said.  

Detzner responded that state agencies currently use federal SAVE data to verify that Floridians are eligible for millions of dollars in entitlements.

“This is the best database we have to deal with,” he said.

At one point Detzner tried to cut Bucher off: “you are interrupting and going to take time away from public questions.”

Here's a partial transcript from some questions during the press gaggle with Detzner:

Q: Do you think you might start a month, two months, next year?

Detzner: The process begins with comment from the public and from the supervisors so we are engaging that process already.

Q: When would we actually see you send files to Broward: a month, three months...

Detzner: There are some issues regarding data exchanges with Department Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. We have to get memorandums of agreement with each of the supervisors and homeland security if those supervisors that want to have access for a final check through homeland security and then the process will begin. So I don’t want to give you a specific date because...

Q: Give me a ballpark. That’s the main question everyone wants to know. Before the end of this year?

Detzner: I don’t want to give you a date because it would be unfair for Maria (Matthews, division director) for me to put that kind of pressure on her and the supervisors.

Q: Remember how it came up last time... months before the election

Detzner: Actually no the process had started more than 18 months before that. While the list may not have been public yet we had been trying to get access to Homeland Security for 18 months before I began my term as secretary and we were denied that by Homeland Security. Now with access to it we have a great working relationship with the Obama Administration’s Homeland Security. They have been very forthcoming. They have helped us. They have educated us and I look forward to them participating if invited to the supervisors’ annual winter conference so they could answer some of the questions that came up here.

Q: Couldn’t you run into the same criticism you faced last year supervisors were so busy dealing with the election and now it’s July, August, September, October. Are you going to stop at a certain point?

Detzner: You have to remember that the felon process continues right straight through election time. That process is ongoing. My goal is to begin the process when all the players are ready, when we are able to provide supervisors with credible and reliable information.  

Q: So it will continue right up to election day?

Detzner: It very well could. The law does not limit us in any way to continuing the process through the election.

Q: What will you do if there are county supervisors who say ‘I’m not comfortable. I’m not participating.’

Detzner: I am optimistic that everyone will have confidence in the process, that we would earn their respect and that they will follow the law.