Rick Scott Is Back With a New Scheme To Purge the Vote In Florida

cartoon florida vote purge the vote

In Florida, it’s deja vu all over again.  Rick Scott is back in the business of purging the vote.  The last time Scott tried this, 182,000 people were put on an initial list based on DMV records. By May 2012, that list was reduced to 2,600 people. According to the Miami Herald most of the Americans on the list were Hispanics, Independents and Democrats.

All but 168 people on the reduced list were eligible voters. Election Supervisors spoke out about the high level of inaccuracies.

Bill Internicola  a 91 year old World War II vet was one of the people on that list.  Mr. Internicola was born in Brooklyn, New York. Obviously, Mr. Internicola shouldn’t have been on a purge list intended to remove bad immigrants from the voting rolls. Nor was he a recently naturalized citizen who fell the cracks or was a victim of clerical error.

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The former head of the Republican Party in Florida admitted that their victory strategy was based on suppressing votes by racial minorities.  The purge list, along with reduced early voting and new voter ID laws were part of that strategy.

Obviously, Republican governors have no shame.  The embarrassment and shame that should come with trying to deny the vote to eligible Americans won’t stop people like Rick Scott.  In 2012, Florida was one of the pre-clearance states under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia described the section as “racial entitlement“ before Conservative Justices decided  in Shelby County v. Holder the pre-clearance states have changed and voters really don’t need the protections that Section 5 provided.

Texas announced its intent to pass a vote suppression law 20 minutes after the decision was announced.  Obviously, the Attorney-General of Texas  knew the law wouldn’t pass pre-clearance. Once he saw that pre-clearance was gutted,  Greg Abbot couldn’t resist the temptation to express his jubilance.

Within 48 hours of the ruling, 6 red states  announced intentions to pass vote suppression laws – some of which were already thrown out by the courts because they disproportionately disadvantaged minorities.

North Carolina passed an extensive and extreme vote suppression law last month.  According to the State’s Board of Elections,  6,947,317 ballots were cast in 2012.  Of those, there were 121 cases  of alleged voter fraud.  That is a far cry from the so called “wide spread” voter fraud Republicans say justified their vote suppression package.

Florida is merely the latest red state to confirm the wisdom of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s post Shelby v. Holder comments.

This time, the state is relying on the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements program (SAVE) to purge voters from its rolls.  SAVE is considered more accurate than using outdated DMV records. More accurate doesn’t mean that eligible voters will be spared of the insult that comes with their government telling them they are not citizens.

Stanford Law Review points to the fact that SAVE  is not a list of citizens or non-citizens.  SAVE’s purpose is to establish immigration status for the purpose of determining eligibility for benefits. It does compile a list of people who interacted with the U.S. immigration system based on records from at least 12 data bases.  The people in those databases include:

noncitizens placed in removal proceedings, people with temporary visas, lawful permanent residents, naturalized citizens, and individuals born abroad who obtained certificates of citizenship by proving that they derived U.S. citizenship from their parents. (my bold)

Relying on this list makes several groups of eligible voters vulnerable to inclusion on purge lists.

The most vulnerable are people who became naturalized citizens after applying for a driver’s license.  Errors can happen as result of explainable discrepancies ranging from the spelling of someone’s name to using different formats for entering dates.

Someone who was born in the U.S but has the same name and birthdate of a non-citizen or people who lost their right to vote as a result of a conviction are also vulnerable. Then there’s the possibility that someone can be struck erroneously because 2 distinctly different people with the same name were erroneously thought to be the same person. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, this sort of erroneous purging happens more often than one would think.

The infamous Florida purge of 2000 — conservative estimates place the number of wrongfully purged voters close to 12,000 was generated in part by bad matching criteria.

Of course, people put on the purge list in Florida are notified by letter and have 30 days to prove their citizenship.  Sometimes that isn’t as simple as Republicans would like you to believe. Significant numbers of Americans don’t have the sort of documents that prove citizenship.  Most people in this category are women, people who earn less than $25,000 a year, Native Americans and naturalized citizens.

According to the Brennan Center, only 48% of voting age women who have access to their U.S birth certificate have their current name on the birth certificate and only 66% of women have access to acceptable ID of any sort that bears their current legal name.

Naturalized Citizens face a couple of possible problems.  They might have misplaced or lost their Naturalization certificate.  They might have changed their legal name as a result of marriage or out of a desire to assimilate by adopting an Anglicized version of their name.

Whatever the reason, replacing the naturalization certificate means paying $345 and completing a N-565 form which takes several months to process.  It also means appearing for an interview.

The fact of the matter is there are several motives behind Rick Scott’s persistent effort to purge the vote.  Obviously, this is an attempt to repeat the same “victory strategy” that worked so well for him in 2012.  As Bloomberg Businessweek points out, this is also about fundraising from Scott’s Tea Party supporters.

Last year, during the height of the debate over the purge, Scott and Florida’s Republican Party actively promoted the effort, at one point using it for fundraising. Through a private e-mail address listed on Tea Party websites last year, the governor received hundreds of messages from supporters who told him to stand strong in his fight against voter fraud.

Indeed, the Tea Party obsesses about voter suppression based on ideology to the point that one might conclude “strategy” is a secondary concern.

Judson Phillips made his views about voting known in 2010. “”The Founding Fathers originally said, they put certain restrictions on who gets the right to vote. It wasn’t you were just a citizen and you got to vote. Some of the restrictions, you know, you obviously would not think about today. But one of those was you had to be a property owner. And that makes a lot of sense, because if you’re a property owner you actually have a vested stake in the community.”

Congressman Steve King expressed similar sentiments.

“As I roll this thing back and I think of American history, there was a time in American history when you had to be a male property owner in order to vote. The reason for that was, because they wanted the people who voted — that set the public policy, that decided on the taxes and the spending — to have some skin in the game.”

Republicans support vote suppression not only because they benefit from a low voter turnout, but also because restricting the vote to propertied white men is part of their ideology.

Contrary to their claims, nothing about purge lists and the host of other vote suppression tricks have anything to do with keeping elections honest. If they were interested in that, Republicans wouldn’t pass vote suppression laws,  train vote observers to deceive voters  and they wouldn’t engage in their version of voter registration fraud.

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