A month before a statewide election, Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official will belatedly release a database of 180,000 voters whose citizenship is in question. But in an about-face from an earlier and highly controversial voter purge effort, no one faces being removed from the state’s voting rolls this time — meaning some noncitizens could cast ballots in the Aug. 14 primary. Reversing course, Secretary of State Ken Detzner agreed the list of names is a public record after talking with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office. Detzner had wanted to get a legal opinion from Bondi, but his spokesman, Chris Cate, said that in verbal discussions, it was agreed the database is public and must be released. The list, however, will not be sent to Florida’s 67 county election supervisors, who have the authority to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls. That means that no one faces being blocked from voting before the primary, even if they’re not a U.S. citizen.
The state list was created last year by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, based on outdated information from people who had obtained driver licenses. A part of the database containing about 2,700 names was sent to election officials in April. That led to charges of voter suppression by Democrats, and a series of lawsuits. Election supervisors abruptly suspended the purge, concluding the list was not credible. Numerous cases arose of citizens being forced to prove their citizenship, and voter advocacy groups noted that more than half the voters on the list had Hispanic surnames. Scott and Detzner have defended their efforts to purge noncitizens from the rolls.