Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

One woman's experience in Florida's targeting of noncitizen voters

She's the prototypical Tampa Bay resident in many ways.

Born in Cleveland, she fled for the warmth of Pasco County. She's a Republican who works in sales, loves fishing and the beach, and she'll turn 49 next month.

The daughter of Cuban-born parents, she's Hispanic, part of the fastest-growing minority in Florida, and has a long, hyphenated name: Manoly Castro-Williamson.

"Manoly cannoli," she jokes when people don't know how to say it. "Then everybody thinks it's Italian, which it's not. It's Spanish." Manoly is a nickname for Manuela, she said.

Oh yeah, one more thing: Florida falsely accused her of not being a U.S. citizen.

For reasons she can't fathom, her name got on the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles' list of 2,700 suspected noncitizens who may be voting illegally in Florida.

It was a mistake.

Castro-Williamson is what's known as a "supervoter." She hasn't skipped an election in years. But Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley, just doing his job, sent her a scary letter warning that she might be breaking the law.

She faxed her Ohio birth certificate to Corley's office.

"I was a little bit shocked," she said. "Angry? No. I'm proud to be an American. Anything they can do to protect the integrity of voting is a good thing."

That's what the state says it's doing by combing through these names.

The list was developed last year by comparing the list of drivers with the voter roll. The cat got out of the bag when motorists in Fort Myers were being called for jury duty and asking to be excused because they weren't citizens.

But now it's clear the list isn't perfect. So far in Pinellas County, three of 36 people have proved their citizenship. As in most counties, most of the rest can't yet be located.

Some elections supervisors are upset that so many of the names on the list appear to be Hispanic, and that a purging of the voter rolls is taking place so close to the Nov. 6 presidential election.

"Strategically, this may not have been the best timing," says Seminole County elections supervisor Mike Ertel, who posted a suspected noncitizen's passport on Twitter. "It's good to make sure the voter rolls are clean, but let's do it in a way that inspires public confidence."

Six voter advocacy groups have demanded that Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner stop the purging, calling it not only inaccurate and unfair but illegal, claiming that federal law prohibits any systematic removal of voters less than 90 days before a primary or general election for federal office. (The primary is Aug. 14.)

The groups, including the Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project and Project Vote, also fault Florida's 30-day notice-by-mail rule as "highly flawed."

Detzner has not yet answered the letter, but spokesman Chris Cate says: "We disagree with their interpretation of the law. Not only do we believe it's crucial to have ineligible voters removed from the voter rolls, we're obligated by law to do it."

Regardless of how this exercise plays out, you just know that nothing will stop Manoly Castro-Williamson from voting in November.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18