Thursday, October 18, 2018
Politics

Election supervisors say they won't restart hunt for non-U.S. citizens

Florida's noncitizen voter purge looks like it's all but over.

The 67 county elections supervisors — who have final say over voter purges — are not moving forward with the purge for now because nearly all of them don't trust the accuracy of a list of nearly 2,700 potential noncitizens identified by the state's elections office.

"We're just not going to do this," said Leon County's election supervisor, Ion Sancho, one of the most outspoken of his peers. "I've talked to many of the other supervisors and they agree. The list is bad. And this is illegal."

So far, more than 500 have been identified as citizens and lawful voters on the voter rolls. About 40 people statewide have been identified as noncitizens. At least four might have voted and could be guilty of a third-degree felony.

The eligibility of about 2,000 have not been identified one way or the other.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner says he hopes to get the supervisors to reverse course by working more closely with them. But while the purge has halted, the fight between the state and the federal government has just begun now that the Justice Department demanded last week that the state cease the purge due to two federal voting laws.

Detzner said the federal government didn't just get the law wrong, it's harming the state's efforts to remove ineligible voters by refusing to provide Florida access to a citizenship and immigration database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

"We need to do a better job," Detzner acknowledged. "But we can't do a better job. And the reason is Homeland Security has pushed us back."

Detzner, whose office has been requesting access to the database since October, has asked to sit down with Homeland Security to meet its demands and get access to the database. That way, the state could produce a more accurate and easy-to-check list for elections supervisors, he said.

Without access to the federal database, the state matched its voter rolls with a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database that contains some citizenship information gathered when someone gets a state-issued ID.

But that database isn't updated when a person becomes a citizen. So many people became U.S. citizens and then lawfully registered to vote — but they can still look like noncitizen voters in the driver data. To get around the problem, the state has asked the federal government to give it updated citizenship information.

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