Politics & Policy

Necessary Hygiene

Governor Rick Scott (R., Fla.)
The 1993 National Voter Registration Act requires Florida’s action.

Governor Wallace was the face of the original Jim Crow,” says MoveOn.org’s Garlin Gilchrist II. “Now, Governor Scott is the face of Jim Crow 2.0.”

Liberals once again are foaming at their mouths over mainly conservative initiatives to prevent vote fraud. The trigger for the Left’s latest rabid attack is Governor Rick Scott’s efforts to verify the accuracy of Florida’s voter rolls.

Responding to Scott’s program and similar ones in other states, Attorney General Eric Holder asked the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday, “Do we want to be the first generation to restrict the ability of American citizens to vote? We have a bad history in that regard . . . ” A Tampa Bay Times editorial accused Scott of “standing between Floridians and their right to vote as U.S. citizens.” MoveOn called Scott’s project a “racist voter purge.” 

So where did Scott decide to scrutinize Florida’s rolls for ineligible voters? At a KKK rally? At a white-power retreat deep inside the Everglades with neo-Nazi David Duke?

Not quite.

In fact, what Scott is doing is required by federal law.

The 1993 National Voter Registration Act (a.k.a. Motor Voter) holds that “A State shall . . . systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.” (42 U.S. Code § 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A)). This is for purposes of “ensur[ing] that accurate and current voter registration rolls are maintained.” (42 USC § 1973gg(h)(4)).

Further, the 2002 Help America Vote Act – adopted after 2000’s Bush v. Gore recount fiasco in . . . where was that? Oh, yes . . . Florida — commands that “the appropriate State or local election official shall perform list maintenance with respect to the computerized list on a regular basis . . . For purposes of removing names of ineligible voters from the official list of eligible voters.” (Sec. 303 42 USC § 15483(a)(2)(A)).

Like an overgrown lawn, Florida’s voter rolls screamed for attention. When Sunshine State officials compared voter lists with the Social Security Death Index, they discovered 51,308 registered voters who happened to be dead. (The Scott administration should perform a national service by checking those names against voter records to determine how many people kept voting after they stopped breathing.) Given this now-corrected luxuriance in Florida’s voter rolls, identifying other ineligibles, including non-citizens, is prudent, lawful, and indeed mandated by federal law.

Last September, Florida asked the Department of Homeland Security for access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) national citizenship database. DHS has stonewalled Florida’s request, and those from Colorado,  Michigan, and North Carolina. As Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote the U.S. Justice Department on June 6, “a chain of emails dating back nine months . . . demonstrates DHS’s refusals and delays in this regard.”

Florida then compared its voter rolls against its driver’s-license applications, which contain citizenship information. It discovered 182,000 potential non-citizens who were registered voters. SAVE could help Florida determine which of these drivers subsequently had become naturalized, but DHS will not share this record with Florida, despite an August 26, 2011 DHS document whose twelfth page states that it may be used for “any legal purpose such as background investigations and voter registration.”

As Chris Cate, spokesman for Florida’s Department of State, told me Thursday morning, a subsample of 2,600 of these 182,000 possible aliens yielded at least 500 now-naturalized citizens as well as, so far, 104 confirmed non-citizen registered voters, 56 of whom feloniously have voted. If this sample is representative, it extrapolates to 7,280 registered non-citizens, 3,920 of whom may have voted and may do so again. Given that George W. Bush won Florida and thus the White House by just 537 votes, Americans should rail against the possibility that more than seven times as many aliens could be poised to elect the next president of the United States.

Rather than encourage Florida to fix this mess, the Obama administration has sued the state to stop it from complying with relevant federal laws. Team Obama claims that Scott’s statewide electoral-hygiene campaign violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act, although that law covers only five of Florida’s 67 counties. DOJ’s actions are akin to placing an entire extended family on parole because five of its members have rap sheets. In his letter to Justice, Secretary of State Detzner explained: “As for the role of the supervisors of elections in Florida’s five covered counties, they are simply administering a law that the Department of Justice has duly precleared. See § 98.075, Fla. Stat.”

The Justice Department also says Florida cannot clean its voter rolls within 90 days of a federal election, namely the August 14 congressional primary. The November 6 general election, in turn, is within 90 days of the primary, further precluding voter-list maintenance, according to Obaman legal interpretation.

This led Secretary of State Detzner to write to DOJ:

The practice DOJ now appears to be endorsing is as follows: the federal Department of Homeland Security may, for months, violate federal law and deny Florida and other states access to the SAVE database so that the federal Department of Justice may then assert that the resulting delays in a state’s election-integrity efforts violate the time periods established in another federal law.

Notwithstanding all the whining about Jim Crow, no one will lose ballot access without enjoying multiple opportunities to prove eligibility. As Governor Scott told National Public Radio’s Michel Martin on Wednesday: “If you even are asked [about citizenship], you have 30 days to respond. There’s a public notice in the newspaper. And then on Election Day, if you go vote, and they have taken you off the roll, you still get to vote. You just vote provisionally.” Eligible citizens will have their provisional ballots counted.

“We have a year-round obligation to assure that the voter rolls are accurate,” says Chris Cate of Florida’s Department of State. “It’s not only the right thing to do, it’s our statutory responsibility. And at no point in the process of us identifying non-citizens do we look at race or party. The only criterion that concerns us is whether someone is an ineligible voter. If so, that person needs to be removed from the voter rolls. We don’t want an ineligible voter to neutralize the vote of an eligible U.S. citizen.”

Congressman Thomas J. Rooney (R., Fla.) captured the frustration many Floridians feel as the Obama administration labors feverishly against ballot integrity. As Rooney wrote Attorney General Holder on June 6: “While your department should be working with Florida to stop voter fraud, you are instead actively working to keep noncitizens — who have committed a felony — on our state’s voter rolls.” 

— New York commentator Deroy Murdock is a nationally syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford University.

Deroy Murdock is a Manhattan-based Fox News contributor, a contributor to National Review Online, and a senior fellow with the London Center for Policy Research.


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