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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio comes out in favor of effort to rid voting rolls of suspected noncitizens



Sen. Marco Rubio was asked about Florida's voter purge during a Bloomberg event this morning.

"How can you argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls?"

Full transcript below (credit Bloomberg breakfast)

QUESTION: How do you see Governor Scott and the Florida election authorities' efforts to seemingly purge Latinos of voting privileges as not digging a hole?

    RUBIO: Well, I wouldn't characterize it as an effort to purge Latinos from the voting rolls. Look, I think there's two separate issues -

    QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) characterize it?

    RUBIO: Well, I would characterize it as twofold. Number one is, I think there's the goal of ensuring that everyone who votes in Florida is qualified to vote. If you're not a citizen of the United States, you shouldn't be voting. That's the law.

    And, I mean - I mean, what's the counter to that, that we're willing to tolerate 100 illegal voters on our rolls? So I do think that - I mean, why - how could anyone argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls and removing them from the voter rolls? They shouldn't be voting.

    QUESTION: A state that's really, really tight on money, spending money on a vote fraud problem when I can't point to a state in this country that has a significant voter fraud problem.

    RUBIO: Well, again, we - I think - I think the latest reports - they've already identified 100 people on the voting rolls that are not qualified to vote. I think one is too many. A - I mean, are willing to ignore 100 people, 200, 300?

    My point is, there shouldn't be a single person on the voting rolls that's not qualified to vote. On the other hand, there's a separate issue in this, how do you carry that out? And I think that's a valid debate, and we can have a debate about, how do you carry out this program?


    RUBIO: Well, look, that's a debate about tactics. And I'm not familiar with all of the intricacies of how the program is being implemented. And if there's a better way to implement a way of identifying voters that don't belong on the - on the rolls in a way that's not disruptive and so forth, you know, I think we should consider that.

    But the goal of purging voters from the rolls that are not qualified to vote, I mean, I don't - I just don't understand. What is the argument in favor of leaving people on the rolls that aren't qualified to vote in the United States? We know of at least 100 people in Florida - and that - they just began the process.

    QUESTION: But (OFF-MIKE) that they would eliminate Sunday voting, which they say is - which the Justice Department is filing suit today or tomorrow, saying that that it aimed at African-Americans, and this 48-hour rule, where the League of Women Voters, which has been doing this for 77 years, says you can't comply with the 48-hour rule, where you collect the names and then within 48 hours submit them. It's just not (OFF-MIKE)

    RUBIO: Well, I don't -


    RUBIO: Right.

    QUESTION:  -  groups like the League to do it.

    RUBIO: Right. So, you know, again, on -


    RUBIO: I'm not nearly as familiar with all the details of the 48-hour rule. On the Sunday voting process, I can tell you that, when I first got elected in Florida, we didn't have Sunday voting or Monday voting or Wednesday voting. We barely had absentee voting. You went on Tuesday, and you voted.

    And so Sunday voting and, you know, early voting was built in, in order to hope to increase voter participation. But we also know, for example, that in the early stages of the - of campaigns, we used to have a two-week voting period in Florida. The cost-benefit analysis of the first week of voting was really not - was really not cost effective. In essence, the number of people voting versus the cost to local governments to comply or to carry out that voting were - the turnout just didn't justify the expenditure in the first week.

    QUESTION: The cost-effective analysis of finding 100 illegal voters -


    RUBIO: Well, but that goes to the integrity of the voting process versus the convenience of the voting process. OK? In Florida, you can still vote on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. You can vote absentee. You can vote - I mean, there really is - if you wanted to vote in Florida, there's no reason why you can't vote in Florida.

    We - all you got to do is mail in an absentee ballot request and you'll get it mailed to your house. You can go on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, or you can go vote on Election Day right in your neighborhood. I mean, that's a lot of voting. I mean, it's certainly more than what you see in most of the parts of the world.

    So this idea that's - you know, but it also costs money. Every day that one of these early voting sites is open, the state and this local government have to spend money staffing them. And if the turnout doesn't justify the staffing - and maybe in a presidential year it might, but I can certainly tell you in state elections and in August primaries where turnouts are abysmally low, there are some of these voting precincts where - early voting precincts where on a Monday two weeks before election, hardly - you know, you have more people working the polls than voting at the polls sometimes.

    So I think that's why the state's reacted to that, not as an effort to go after any particular profile of voter. And I would just go on to say that, you know, at the end of the day, I - I think that - irrespective of what the outcome of an election is going to be, we have to protect the integrity of the voting process. And - and I would support that, irrespective of how I think the measure - even if it would hurt my party, theoretically.

    So, obviously, the way you implement these policies is always open for discussion, because you always want to - you always want to implement these policies in the most responsible way. And if there are some unintended consequences to the way the policy is being implemented, we certainly should be open-minded about it. I certainly don't want to be a part of or supportive of any policy that hurts someone's opportunity to participate in the electoral process.

    On the other hand, you can't have voters on your voting rolls that don't belong on there, because they're dead or because they're - they're not citizens. And I think that's - that's a legitimate issue for a state to try to tackle.


    QUESTION: How many legal voters are you willing to tolerate being accidentally -

    RUBIO: None.

    QUESTION:  -  kicked off the rolls?

    RUBIO: None. No legal voter should be kicked off the voting rolls, but that goes back to tactics. I mean, so is the argument that, in order for us not to kick off a single legal voter, we must tolerate 100 illegal voters? Because I don't think that - that's a false choice. I think you can do both.

    I believe that you can implement this policy in a way - and if the federal government were more cooperative, perhaps it wouldn't have gotten to this point. I think that you could implement a removal of illegal voters in a way that is not disruptive to legal voters. I think that can be done. I just do.

    And so, you know, I just don't think that's the choice. I don't think an order not to kick off a single legal voter we have to somehow tolerate the existence of 100, 200 or even five illegal voters. I just don't think that's a valid choice.

    QUESTION: Do you have a record of any illegal voters actually voting or just -


    RUBIO: Well, that's the process they're going through right now, right? I mean, that's what they're going through as we speak. The latest article I read was that they're up to 100, or at least that's what the governor said, that they've identified 100 -

    QUESTION: A hundred names of the rolls.

    RUBIO: Well, and 100 names on the rolls - well, for example, again, I'm going off press accounts, so, you know, you can't - but I thought I read in the Miami Herald late last night or early this morning that they knew of the case of one person that records show voted in 1996, but there's no paper record of what he voted for, and the voter claims he was a Canadian. He votes - he claims he didn't vote. So there's a - he says I've never voted, I don't know what you're talking about.

    So obviously - but you're not going to know that until you go through the process of it. And - but, again, I mean, the idea is we know that there are at least 80 to 90 names on the list that don't belong the list. We should be concerned about that. We should be concerned about people that are registered in multiple states. And we should be concerned about our list that include the names of people who have passed away, because I think that also could lend itself to mayhem and madness.

    So I would just say, look, I think we should just all take a deep breath - not all you, I mean, people involved in this - and - and say that - you can take a deep breath, too, but -


     -  that I - I think you can protect the integrity of the voter rolls without disrupting the voter rolls unnecessarily, but that's an issue of tactics, not an issue of - of policy. And, you know, if it wasn't so hyper-political, and if it wasn't - probably if it wasn't an election year, months away from the election, it might be easier to confront some of these issues.

[Last modified: Wednesday, June 13, 2012 3:57pm]


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