Florida’s efforts to purge “ineligible” voters from the rolls received an unexpected boost last week, after the Department of Homeland Security granted the state access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, all but encouraging Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) to resume his controversial voter purge.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner responded to the news by sending a letter to elections supervisors informing them that the state’s original error-ridden list of possible ineligible voters — generated by a comparison of driver’s license and voter registration records — “should be considered obsolete.” Indeed, that database proved to both disproportionately affect Hispanic and democratic voters, and to be riddled with inaccuracies, targeting hundreds of eligible voters, including two World War II veterans.
“I am very pleased that the federal government has committed to giving us the access necessary to identify noncitizens on the voter rolls and make sure these ineligible voters cannot cast a ballot,” Detzner said in a statement. “Florida voters are counting on their state and federal governments to cooperate in a way that ensures elections are fair, beginning with ensuring the voter rolls are current and accurate.” However, the Department of Homeland Security’s SAVE database is not without its own limitations:
According to the letter — signed by a Homeland Security official, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services — to verify the citizenship status of people registered to vote in Florida, officials must provide evidence, like an alien number, that the person is indeed a noncitizen. Those numbers are typically given to people who are living in the country legally as noncitizens. Under federal law, such individuals are not permitted to vote. The SAVE database can provide no information on illegal immigrants who may have registered to vote.
That restriction will prevent Florida from solely using driver’s license information, as it did when the state compiled its initial list of 182,000 voters believed to be noncitizens. That list was then pared down to 2,600, of which 107 were found to have been registered to vote illegally, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Florida is not the only state pushing for access to SAVE. Last week, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler threatened to sue DHS for access to the database. Gessler was backed by nine secretaries of state and two lieutenant governors, all republicans.