Paving the way for a new attempt to remove noncitizens from voter rolls, Florida’s election chief tried to stoke confidence on Wednesday in the revamped plan before a largely skeptical crowd in immigrant-heavy South Florida. Maria Matthews of Florida’s Division of Elections and Ken Detzner, the secretary of state, met with election supervisors. For Ken Detzner — Florida’s secretary of state and the man in charge of elections — the meeting’s combative tone was the latest measure of the distrust engendered by the state’s move last year to try to weed out noncitizens from registration lists months before the polls opened. The Republican-driven decision to review the rolls took on political overtones because Hispanics in Florida vote largely for Democrats. Mr. Detzner, capping a five-city tour, defended his decision — if not the breakdown in the process last year — saying it is his obligation to ensure the integrity of the state’s voter rolls. Only American citizens are permitted to vote in elections.
But the driver’s license data that Florida used to compile the list of potential noncitizens last year proved so unreliable that decorated war veterans turned up on the rosters sent to election supervisors. The supervisors chose not to participate in the process.
Ultimately, Mr. Detzner called off the search, frustrated that the state was blocked from using a more expansive federal database to check immigration status. In the summer of 2012, the state was granted access to the Department of Homeland Security database after challenging the federal government in court.
Mr. Detzner acknowledged the flaws in last year’s effort. “The credibility and integrity of the elections process is based, as I said, on the voter rolls,” he told the crowd, which included advocates for voter and immigrant rights. “I am the person who is responsible. I accept responsibility for the issues and problems that occurred last year.”