Wednesday, the Scott administration reached a partial settlement with civil rights groups who had objected to the first purge. The state agreed to restore to the rolls any voter it identified as “potential non-citizen” unless the elections officials can confirm their non-citizenship with a U.S. Department of Homeland Security Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. It also said it would mail all registered voters who received purge letters earlier this year a note “informing them that they are indeed registered to vote,” unless they have been confirmed to be non-citizens. Some publications inaccurately reported that this meant the voter purge has been stopped; it has not.
Last Thursday, the state’s 67 county elections supervisors were instructed to participate in a September 10 webinar on how the Scott administration expected counties to proceed as it restarts its purge. The supervisors were given a 52-slide PowerPoint presentation but little opportunity to ask questions or discuss the plans. While the state will be paying to check the initial round of names against the SAVE database, elections supervisors were told that they would have to enter into a “memorandum of agreement” in which they agree to pay up to $1.50 per search in the future out of county funds. In the upcoming weeks, the names of voters from the initial lists who the state still believes are non-citizens will be sent to local supervisors to restart the purge efforts where they left off. The Scott administration acknowledges that the supervisors may not be able to complete the purge before the November elections. And from their initial list of 2,600 “sure-fire” non-citizens, the administration has only found 207 it says it is certain are ineligible voters. In fact, they were only able to even check 1,700 of the names with the new SAVE database.
Volusia County Elections Supervisor Ann McFall (R) told ThinkProgress that the cost of this effort — plus the cost of more certified mailings and staff time — is a concern. “Our budgets have already gone in for the year… I didn’t budget [up to $1.50] per person.” The certified letter “at $5.65 and the four people’s salary and wages I have to put on this,” she notes mean she’ll have to “take them away from something else.”
Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher (D) echoed these concerns in a ThinkProgress interview:
I don’t know that I can do that right now — we’ve already submitted our budget agreement. I’d have to run the Memorandum of Agreement by our local attorney and our county attorney… We want to make sure we only have eligible voters on our voter file… but we’re kind of busy doing a general election. We have 39 employees and a very streamlined budget. Can I enter into this Memorandum of Agreement to pay this? I will have to discuss with county, who funds my budget.
Mary Cooney, spokeswoman for Broward County Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes (D), said she is less concerned about the SAVE costs than about using limited staff resources on a complicated purge less than 60 days before a major presidential election. “The time commitment to get this done is more problematic than the dollars,” she observed.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of State did not respond to a request for comment.