It seems Florida just can’t resist the urge to purge. Last year, Gov. Rick Scott (R) went toe to toe with the federal government and civil rights groups for the power to needle thousands of Floridians — mostly Latinos — about their citizenship under the threat of voter roll expulsion. Scott lost that battle thanks in part to the Voting Rights Act. But not long after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder that the VRA coverage formula was unconstitutional, Scott began planning how to reinstate his purge program. This week, Floridians of color are speaking out against those purge plans as a class of people who are most likely to be challenged by the Florida government about their citizenship. The Florida organizations LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Florida New Majority and the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, along with the national civil rights organization Advancement Project*, are speaking out against Scott’s plans and calling for county elections supervisors to reject the call to interrogate those the state has determined as possible “non-citizens.” The groups fear that Scott’s revived list maintenance scheme may unduly burden new naturalized citizens, most of whom are Latino and Haitians.
“We know from past experience that these types of voter purges are likely to ensnare valid citizens, and they disparately impact voters of color,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
“Moreover, a citizen is a citizen, and all should have equal access to their right to vote,” said Florida Immigrant Coalition Executive Director Maria Rodriguez.
When the state first attempted this purge program last summer, it produced a list of names of roughly 2,600 people the Secretary of State’s office determined needed to be questioned about their citizenship and hence their voting eligibility. The state sent the list to the supervisors of elections in each county instructing them to send letters to the people named requesting they come in and show documentation proving their citizenship. The state used a flawed methodology to produce that list, and as a result most of the elections supervisors rebuffed the state’s inquiries. It was eventually determined that roughly 80 percent of the names on that list were people of color — 61 percent were Latino, 16 percent black and 5 percent Asian-American.