Florida Congressman Ted Deutch (D) told ThinkProgress today that Gov. Rick Scott was engaging in a “blatant attempt to supress voter turnout.” Scott is currently involved in a massive effort to purge up to 180,000 from the voting rolls. The list, purportedly of non-citizens, has proven unreliable. Earlier this week, Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel, a Republican, posted a picture on Twitter of a voter on the list falsely identified as ineligible, with his passport.
Congressman Deutch said that his office has heard from several constituents who have recieved a voting ineligibility letter in error. In light of these errors, Deutch will soon send a letter to Scott demanding the purge be immediatly suspended. An excerpt:
It is out of grave concern that we write to ask for the immediate suspension of the Florida Division of Elections’ directive that county supervisors of elections purge up to 180,000 names from Florida’s voter rolls in advance of the November 2012 elections.
While we all agree that the right to vote should be reserved only to those who are eligible, any process that could strip Floridians of their voting rights should be conducted with the utmost caution and transparency, and certainly not within six months of a major federal election and within 90 days of the primary. Providing a list of names with questionable validity – created with absolutely no oversight – to county supervisors and asking that they purge their rolls will create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians’ confidence in the integrity of our elections. A rushed process will undermine both Florida and federal law requiring voter rolls to be maintained in a uniform and nondiscriminatory manner.
The letter was circulated to the entire Florida Congressional delegation and Deutch expects several of his colleagues to sign on. Deutch noted that while Florida has “no history of mass voter fraud” it does have a history of “mass voter disenfranchisement” that proceeded the presidential election in 2000.
In 1998, Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris hired a private company to create a “scrub list” of duplicate registrations, deceased voters and felons prohibited from voting in Florida. The company’s list, however, was riddled with errors. One person flagged as a felon by the list was actually a Florida judge. A county elections supervisor discovered the list was unreliable when she received an erroneous letter informing her that she was a felon and could not vote. By one estimate, 7000 Florida voters were wrongfully removed from the voter rolls for the 2000 presidential election — 13 times George W. Bush’s margin of victory in that state after the Supreme Court halted the post-election recount.
Deutch said that, in this election, “Governor Scott wants to play the role of Katherine Harris.”
African-Americans made up 88 percent of the voters removed from the rolls in the purge that preceeded the 2000 election, even though they account for only about 11 percent of Florida voters. In Florida, 93 percent of black voters cast a ballot for Al Gore.