Republican Governor Rick Scott is restarting his high-profile purge of suspected noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls in a move to appeal to core supporters that risks losing the backing of key swaths of the electorate. Scott, seizing on the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a main element of the Voting Rights Act, has revived one of his administration’s most contentious missions: rooting out noncitizens from Florida’s list of 11.8 million voters. While the move to fight fraud may burnish Scott’s appeal to Republicans, strategists say, it risks reviving memories of polling-place snafus in 2012 and alienating the state’s growing Hispanic population. The purge, which began before the 2012 election, stalled when several U.S. citizens were targeted and a Latino-advocacy group sued, claiming discrimination.
“For both parties, the discussion about purging the voter rolls is all about turning out the vote for next year,” said Susan MacManus, who teaches politics at the University of South Florida in Tampa. Yet the risk remains for Scott, she said. “The voter fraud versus voter suppression debate is alive and well in Florida, and there’s no sign of it going away.”
The Supreme Court, with its June 25 ruling striking down the federal preclearance provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, cleared the way for several Republican governors to move forward with new voting laws. Some have done so, and Texas (STOTX1:US), Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina have all begun implementing voter-identification rules since the decision.