The state of Florida has backed down in their attempts to purge voter-rolls of suspected non-citizens. In the settlement of a lawsuit with civil rights organizations, Florida has basically rolled back the entire voter purge, including their initial list of 2,600 “potential non-citizens,” which ended up netting exactly one non-citizen voter, out of the 8.3 million who participated in the 2008 election there.
As per the settlement, Florida will restore to the voter rolls anyone on that 2,600-strong list of “potential non-citizens” who might have been removed. If the county supervisor of Elections cannot confirm their non-citizen status in the recently acquired SAVE database from the Department of Homeland Security, their voting rights will be restored.
In addition, everyone from that list who received a letter stating that they may not be eligible to vote will now receive a new letter, stating that they are registered. The only exceptions to this will be those confirmed non-citizens, of which we so far have 1, though Secretary of State Ken Detzner claims that “several” are being investigated. These voters from the list will not have to vote with a provisional ballot but with the normal ballot everyone else uses. Basically, that potential non-citizen list has been voided.
In exchange, the plaintiffs in the case will waive their claims to discrimination under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. However, they will keep alive the lawsuit on alternate grounds, that the voter rolls cannot be changed within 90 days of a general election.
In a statement, Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project, one of the civil rights groups involved in the case, said, “This settlement represents a historic milestone for voting rights in Florida. It will ensure that naturalized citizens, the majority of whom are Latino, black and Asian, have the same opportunities as all Americans to participate in our political process and exercise the most fundamental right in our democracy—the right to vote. The Secretary of State has agreed to abandon its practice of forcing naturalized citizens to prove their citizenship, and that is a victory for all us.”
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network and SEIU all collaborated on this case. The full settlement is here.
In some additional fallout from the failed voter purge efforts, which as NPR described turned up few if any non-citizen voters, Colorado has decided to end its program. The Secretary of State, Scott Gessler, closed down the voter purge effort, citing a lack of time to hold hearings on 141 potential non-citizens between now and November.
Citizen action has played a role in highlighting the voter purges and eventually putting a stop to them. In a statement, Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro said about Colorado’s shutdown, “There is no doubt in my mind that the united voice of many widely different groups helped convince Secretary Gessler to drop his ill-conceived plan.”