Florida’s election supervisors are unlikely to remove any potentially ineligible voters before the Aug. 14 primary. In a move seen as a victory for Gov. Rick Scott, the state last week got approval to access a federal immigration database to check the citizenship status of voters. The state has been pushing to compare its voter rolls with the federal database for months even as it proceeds with its own push to identify and remove voters who are not U.S. citizens. But the state association that represents Florida’s county elections supervisors will urge its members to move slowly. Vicki Davis, the Martin County Supervisor of Elections and the association president, said on Tuesday that she was urging caution because it is unclear if the state can take all steps necessary to carry out a new agreement with the federal government before early voting starts next month. “We all agree our voter rolls need to be clean and up to date,” Davis said. “I think we need to move forward slowly and cautiously with the process. We’re not expecting the process to begin until after the primary election.”
Davis said part of the reason for the suggestion to proceed slowly is because the state and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have not yet finalized a formal agreement. Additionally, state officials are going to be trained on how to use the immigration database known as “SAVE” or “Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.” The state also has promised to take an earlier list it sent supervisors and screen it a second time with the database. That go-slow-approach is at odds with Scott, who said on CNN earlier this week: “I can’t imagine they aren’t going to go forward.”
Chris Cate, a spokesman for Florida’s Secretary of State, acknowledged that supervisors won’t be getting any newly-screened names immediately. But he added “I don’t think we can rule out sending names” before the primary. It was Scott who last year initiated a push to have Florida election officials look for non-U.S. citizens on the voter rolls. That resulted in the state comparing driver’s license information with voter registration data to come up with a list of more than 180,000 voters suspected of being ineligible to vote. Then in April the state distributed to county election supervisors a list of more than 2,600 names that state officials said had been reviewed and scrutinized. The supervisors have final say over whether to remove a voter from the rolls.