Weeks before the Florida Department of State publicly announced its non-citizen voter purge, proclaiming it was cleaning up the voter rolls, local supervisor of elections were already warning state election officials that the department’s data were bad. In late March, the state elections office alerted local supervisors that it was sending them a list of 2,600 voters who had been identified as non-citizens based on drivers’ license records from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Right away, according to emails obtained by the South Florida Sun Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel, there was concern from election supervisors. On April 2, Seminole County Election Supervisor Mike Ertel emailed Gisela Salas, director of the Florida Division of Elections, that some of the five people on Ertel’s list were non-citizens when they obtained a driver’s license but had subsequently become citizens. In fact, he said, some had registered to vote at their naturalization ceremony. “I hate having these new citizens’ first experience with our process be one that frustrates,” Ertel wrote, following it with a smiley face.
On April 24, Kimberle B. Weeks, election supervisor in Flagler County, emailed Salas expressing her concern, referencing a webinar conducted for elections supervisors about how the state culled driver’s license records of people who may not have been citizens at the time they got their licenses. “As was expressed during the recent webinar, I do not agree that we should be verifying records against a third-party collection agency, as we cannot verify the validity of the record(s) they have collected,” she wrote.
On May 2, a week before the department put out an announcement about the program, Linda Tanko, deputy supervisor of elections for Orange County, sent Salas an email noting that the state’s data identifying 17 potential non-citizens did not match Orange County election records. But the emails did not set off any alarm bells, and state officials went ahead with a press release announcing the initiative on May 9.