Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Politics

Settlement will keep most potential non-U.S. citizens on Florida voter rolls

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Department of State have already removed 207 noncitizen voters using a federal immigration database, and there could be more to come.

But most of the people on the initial list of potentially ineligible voters will remain on the state's voting rolls, officials said Wednesday.

The announcements were part of a settlement with a coalition of voter rights groups that had sued over the state's attempt to purge potential non-U.S. citizens from the voting rolls.

"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," Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a news release. "We know that every vote counts, especially here in Florida where only 537 votes decided the presidential election in 2000."

In April, the state identified 2,625 potentially ineligible voters after checking voter rolls against a motor vehicle database that contained some outdated citizenship information. The coalition filed its lawsuit in June, accusing the state of unfairly targeting minority voters.

The plaintiffs agreed Wednesday to drop most of the suit after the state signed off on several "stipulations."

For example, the state will restore individuals to the voters rolls unless they are verified as being ineligible using a federal immigration database.

Most the people on the list of 2,625 who received notices that they were potentially being kicked off the rolls will receive new letters verifying that they remain eligible to vote.

The plaintiffs are still actively pursuing one claim against the state: that Florida violated a federal law that precludes voter purges within 90 days of an election. One of the plaintiffs, civil rights group Advancement Project, issued a news release praising the "stipulation" agreement.

"It will ensure that naturalized citizens, the majority of whom are Latino, black and Asian, have the same opportunities as all Americans to participate in our political process and exercise the most fundamental right in our democracy — the right to vote," co-director Judith Browne Dianis said.

Some of the 207 registered voters kicked off the rolls had previously admitted they weren't citizens, but most were found through a federal immigration database, called SAVE, State Department spokesman Chris Cate said.

"The information about these voters will be provided to state attorneys to investigate, as well," Cate said, noting that registering to vote illegally could be a felony.

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

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