Forget Wisconsin – well, not really. But at least citizens there get to exercise their right to vote – however foolish that outcome might seem to us on the outside. In Florida, 2,600 registered voters received a very special letter reading, in part:
“you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote.”
And then there’s some vaguely threatening language that tells people how to fill out a form to agree with that statement or else request a hearing to prove their citizenship. “Brazen” is how Rolling Stones reporter/blogger Ari Berman describes this latest salvo. Already this year, Florida – under the direction of Republican Governor Rick Scott, has taken measures to remove 100,000 previously eligible ex-felons, curtail voter registration, and limit early voting. All measures which disproportionately affect Democrats, young people, and people of color.
And why not? It worked so well in 2000. “According to the Brennan Center for Justice, in 2000 12,000 eligible voters – a number twenty-two times larger than George W. Bush’s 537 vote triumph over Al Gore – were wrongly identified as convicted felons and purged from the voting rolls in Florida. African Americans, who favored Gore over Bush by 86 points, accounted for 11 percent of the state’s electorate but 41 percent of those purged.”
Among this latest purge of 2,600 voters: 58% are Hispanic, 14% are African American, and 13% are white. By party, 40% are Democrats, 38% are Independents, and just 20% are Republicans.
Last week, federal judge Robert Hinkle issued an injunction ending the provision that would apply onerous fines and regulations to voter registration. The Department of Justice followed this by demanding that Florida stop it’s voter purge – citing violations of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as well as the 1993 National Voter Registration Act – and instructing the state to inform the DOJ how the state intends to comply. It’s not certain how the state intends to respond, but earlier this week Chris Cate, spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, reiterated the state’s position that they are breaking no laws. In a statement to the Miami Herald, Cate argued,
“It’s very important we make sure ineligible voters can’t cast a ballot.” He said the state continues to identify ineligible voters, saying the state Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has agreed to update information using a federal database that the elections division couldn’t access directly.
“We won’t be sending any new names to supervisors until the information we have is updated, because we always want to make sure we are using the best information available,” Cate wrote. “I don’t have a timetable on when the next list of names will be sent to supervisors, but there will be more names.”