We’re a little under a month away from Election Day, which for some means time to prepare for early voting. For others, it means time to start purging names from voter rolls. Two Southern states, Florida and Virginia, are facing lawsuits after launching (or in Florida’s case, relaunching) controversial programs that could lead to thousands of voters’ names getting stripped from voting lists. In Virginia, the purging has already started. Voters from these states who may have failed to update their voter registration information — or who ended up on the purge lists by mistake — might show up at the polls during early voting or Election Day only to find that they can’t vote. This was a problem last year in Florida that civil rights advocates thought they had resolved. Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner started a purge program last summer. They tried to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, which tracks welfare benefits for immigrants, but DHS would not allow it. So instead they turned to state driving records.
Two Miami citizens, Karla Arcia and Melande Antoine, were improperly removed from voter rolls under that purge scheme and sued the state for discrimination. The state had flagged 2,700 registered voters as potential non-citizens using the dubious methodology, and over 82 percent of those flagged were people of color, mostly Latinos. But it turned out that the majority were eligible voters. Florida settled the discrimination claim by suspending the purge program.
But this summer, Florida officials announced they’d be reinstating the purge using the SAVE database, to which DHS has since granted access. But voting rights experts say that using SAVE to find non-citizens is as unreliable as the process used last year, which relied on driving records from within the state. But Detzner has been traveling the state to defend the program in townhall meetings he’s dubbed “Project Integrity roundtables.”
Representatives from a coalition of civil rights organizations including the Florida ACLU, Advancement Project, Project Vote and Florida New Majority attended the roundtables to question the Detzner about how he plans to implement the program and utilize SAVE without disenfranchising voters. Nancy Abudu, the Florida ACLU’s director of legal operations, attended four out of five of the roundtables and said both county elections supervisors and residents criticized the plan, as the New York Times also reported.
Full Article: Voter purging in Florida and Virginia leads to lawsuits.