When Secretary of State Matt Schultz attempted to purge voters from the rolls in advance of the November 2012 election, a county judge temporarily blocked the move, finding that the rules issued by Schultz created fear and uncertainty and could deter legitimate voters. But that risk of voter suppression hasn’t stopped Schultz from proposing a new slightly tweaked rule to remove registered voters in the name of alleged voter fraud.
The rule would allow Schultz’s office to challenge the legitimacy of registered voters who are listed as noncitizens in the Department of Transportation database. Citing a DOT list of some 3,000 registered voters labeled noncitizens, Schultz said, “I have to do something. I can’t just sit back and do nothing when we know people are taking advantage of the system.”
But Schultz’s testimony just last month before the Senate Judiciary Committee shows that he doesn’t know people are taking advantage of the system. When probed by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) for evidence of voter fraud, Schultz cited just six arrests — not convictions — out of 1.6 million votes cast. And this was after a special agent was designated to specifically target voter fraud.
As for the list of 3,000 people, that claim was easily dismissed by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund’s Nina Perales during the same hearing:
Secretary Schultz … said he had identified 3,500 noncitizens using the driver’s license rolls. He did not. He identified 3,500 people who were noncitizens at the time that they obtained their driver’s licenses. And we know that since that time and before they registered to vote, the overwhelming majority and perhaps all of them have become naturalized citizens. So at this point, anyone who undertakes to accuse people of non-citizenship based on driver’s licenses should be on notice that this is not correct and should not be done. It’s fundamentally unfair.
Attempts to prove voter fraud nationwide have fallen similarly short, with less than 20 instances of fraud charges offered in most states. Florida GOP officials have even publicly admitted voter suppression was the goal of that state’s aggressive and inaccurate purge.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups are also arguing that Schultz cannot implement a purge without going through the state legislature. The ruling that blocked Schultz’s last attempt said that, at the very least, Schultz should have gone through the proper rulemaking procedure that allows for public input instead of going forward on his own. Schultz is now going through that procedure, but the court could still hold this process insufficient.