Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Homeland Security owes Florida better explanation

Gov. Rick Scott continues to defend his discredited attempt to remove noncitizens from the voter rolls, and the national media again ridicules Florida's efforts to make it harder to vote. But the governor is right in one respect. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been stonewalling in responding to a request by state elections officials to use a federal computer program, and it owes the state and its residents a clearer answer.

The fate of the botched purge of the voter rolls is now in the hands of the courts. The Scott administration has filed a federal lawsuit contending Homeland Security improperly denied the state access to the computer program that could help weed out noncitizens. The U.S. Justice Department has sued the state, persuasively arguing that the Scott administration is violating federal voting laws. A new Justice Department memo defends Homeland Security's actions regarding the computer program, but Homeland Security has not been prompt or open in dealing with questions from the state or the public.

Emails attached to the state's lawsuit indicate state elections officials have been seeking approval from Homeland Security to use the federal computer program known as SAVE since at least September. Weeks would go by with little or no substantive response. More than nine months later, there still is no clear, definitive answer to elections officials or to the public from the department. The Obama administration should be held to the same standard of openness and responsiveness as state government, and it has fallen short here.

The SAVE system would not be the panacea that Scott suggests. It is used by hundreds of federal and state agencies, including Florida's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, to help determine an immigrant's eligibility for benefits such as a driver's license. But it does not include U.S. citizens born in this country, who have popped up on the state's flawed list of noncitizens. And to produce accurate results, an agency must have access to a noncitizen's specific immigration documents. Florida elections officials do not have those identifying documents, which are necessary to properly use the SAVE system.

Homeland Security raised that issue in October, and a state elections lawyer acknowledged in a return email that was an obstacle. But the exchanges curiously continued for months, and Washington was stringing Tallahassee along. So the Scott administration foolishly moved forward anyway, releasing a list of potential noncitizens to county elections supervisors that contains the names of hundreds of citizens whose voting rights were jeopardized. It is instructive that former Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who left in February and earlier served more than 25 years as Pasco County's supervisor of elections, says he would not have sent out that flawed list.

Scott should be held accountable for plunging ahead with a flawed process that suppresses the vote. But Homeland Security should have been more open and responsive from the beginning, and it still has some explaining to do to Floridians.

Comments
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 11 hours ago

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18