Saturday, February 17, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Phantom voter fraud in Florida

Last week the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced it was walking away from another voter fraud inquiry after concluding it could make no arrests. It's one more reminder that the real problem with voting in the Sunshine State isn't fraud but state leaders more interested in keeping individuals from the polls.

The FDLE announcement puts to a close to allegations of voter registration fraud by the Florida New Majority Education Fund, a group that signs up underrepresented voters. No arrests were made. This fits a pattern of much noise being made about voter fraud with little to show for it. In Fort Myers, a case of 11 fraudulent registrations was closed with no charges. And ironically, the little voter fraud that has been found has involved Strategic Allied Consulting, a vendor working for the Republican Party of Florida. One man admitted falsifying registration forms and received probation and community service; two other cases involving the same vendor remain open.

Yet no one in Tallahassee in the Republican Party seems willing to admit this is a phantom problem in Florida, used each election cycle to justify making it harder to register to vote and cast a ballot. During the 2012 election, out of nearly 12 million voters in the state, there were only a handful of cases involving people fraudulently filling out voter registrations or improperly influencing senior citizens filling out their absentee ballot — but few concerns about fraud at the polls themselves.

Yet Gov. Rick Scott continues to cry voter fraud to justify relaunching a voter purge to hunt for noncitizens on voter rolls — just like the Legislature did during the lead-up to the 2012 presidential election. The disastrous elections law changes lawmakers passed reduced early voting and caused hourslong lines on Election Day.

The Legislature repealed some of the worst changes, but now Scott is going back to the future — ordering Secretary of State Ken Detzner to reinitiate the voter purge despite bipartisan opposition among Florida's 67 supervisors of elections. A year ago, Detzner's office claimed the state had a database of 182,000 illegally registered noncitizens on the voter rolls. The list turned out to be wildly inaccurate.

Voting still has problems in Florida, but not with fraud.

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