Sunday, May 27, 2018
Politics

State won't release larger list of possible noncitizen voters

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott insists Florida's voter rolls must be scrubbed carefully to remove any non-U.S. citizens, but his administration is keeping secret a list of more than 180,000 voters whose citizenship may be in question.

Scott's elections agency is refusing numerous requests from voter advocacy groups and news outlets to release the list, months after the state released an initial list targeting 2,625 potential noncitizens. Many people on the first list turned out to be citizens.

The larger list has the potential to cause a bigger political controversy than the smaller one.

"I want to be very careful," said Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner. "It's individuals' names on there, and I want to make sure that people are treated respectfully. I want to be abundantly cautious about that."

In an interview in his office, Detzner could not cite a law that makes the list exempt from disclosure. Rather than make the list public, Detzner says he will ask Attorney General Pam Bondi whether it is a public record under Florida law.

By law, Bondi's agency gives advisory opinions to state agencies, cities and counties on the public records law.

Three months ago, the state created a separate smaller list by matching the list of voters with the state driver's license database.

The state sent those 2,600-plus names to 67 county election supervisors, with orders to remove anybody who could not prove citizenship status.

That set off a nationwide furor, with Democrats accusing Scott of trying to suppress votes, noting that a majority of people on the list have Hispanic surnames. Then came the filing of multiple lawsuits and complaints by election supervisors that the list is not reliable because it contains the names of people who are U.S. citizens.

More than 100 people were removed from the voter rolls before election supervisors suspended the review. Most did not vote in a Florida election.

In a recent commentary in several Florida newspapers, Detzner strongly defended the need to purge the rolls of noncitizens. "All it takes is one ineligible voter to neutralize the vote of an eligible voter," Detzner wrote.

Detzner said the 2,625 people had more interactions with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles than other names in the larger group — meaning they were more likely to be noncitizens.

About 1,200 people on the original list were in Florida on work or student visas, and had to renew their drivers' licenses each year. The other 1,400 were "more random," Detzner said.

With a presidential election slightly more than four months away, voter advocacy groups have been highly critical of Scott for refusing to divulge the information.

"We are troubled that Florida has not yet responded to our request to turn over its complete database of potential noncitizens on the voter rolls," said Diana Kasdan, legal counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. "Careful scrutiny of this list is critical to ensure that eligible Americans will not be blocked from voting. Any attempt to clean the rolls must be open, transparent and accurate. Florida's purge has been anything but."

Detzner said there was no doubt about whether the list of 2,625 was public because it had been given to election supervisors. On the larger list, he said he'll abide by whatever Bondi's office says.

"If it's public record, everybody should have access to it," Detzner said. "We just want to be real careful."

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

Comments
Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

Former President George H.W. Bush hospitalized in Maine

BIDDEFORD, Maine — Former President George H.W. Bush was hospitalized Sunday in Maine after he experienced low blood pressure and fatigue, a spokesman said. Just after 2 p.m., Jim McGrath, a spokesman for the 93-year-old Bush, said he was awak...
Updated: 10 hours ago
More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

More LGBT issues loom as justices near wedding cake decision

WASHINGTON — A flood of lawsuits over LGBT rights is making its way through courts and will continue, no matter the outcome in the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision in the case of a Colorado baker who would not create a wedding cake for a s...
Published: 05/26/18
Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

Carlton: Sometimes taxpayers pay for not doing the right thing

I may have cracked the code. Found a way to sell doing the right thing. Discovered a method of persuasion in certain matters of fairness, conscience and the greater good.Like giving our fellow Americans a second chance.When morality-based arguments d...
Published: 05/26/18
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