Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections official is suspending a politically charged election-year plan to purge noncitizens from Florida’s voter rolls, citing changes to a federal database used to verify citizenship. The about-face Thursday by Secretary of State Ken Detzner resolves a standoff with county elections supervisors, who resisted the purge and were suspicious of its timing. It also had given rise to Democratic charges of voter suppression aimed at minorities, including Hispanics crucial to Scott’s re-election hopes. Detzner told supervisors in a memo that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is redesigning its SAVE database, and it won’t be finished until 2015, so purging efforts, known as Project Integrity, should not proceed. “I have decided to postpone implementing Project Integrity until the federal SAVE program Phase Two is completed,” Detzner wrote.
Detzner sent his memo after three rounds of conference calls with supervisors, who endorsed his decision.
“It is a good idea to postpone the project until we’re sure we have it right,” said Citrus County Supervisor Susan Gill. “The closer it gets to the election, which I know you’re well aware of, the more likely is it is that we’ll get a lot of criticism.”
“It’s a wise decision because our elections aren’t that far away,” said Pinellas’ Deborah Clark. “The time is not sufficient to start a project like this. . . . It needs to be done right or not at all.”