Six years before he made national headlines, Gov. Rick Scott found himself being purged from voter rolls after local election officials thought he was dead, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.
Collier County election officials on Thursday confirmed that the governor was required to vote with a provisional ballot for the 2006 primary and general election after county officials mistook him for Richard E. Scott, who died in January 2006 and had the exact same birthday — 12/1/1952 — as Florida’s 45th governor.
Election officials said the governor was required to vote provisionally because local election officials had received a Social Security Death Index Death Record showing that Richard E. Scott died Jan. 27, 2006.
The governor, whose full name is Richard Lynn Scott, recounted his voting difficulties in radio interviews on Thursday as the state tangles with the federal government over just that – how likely is it that elections officials might make a mistake and purge the wrong person from the voter rolls?
An election official noted, however, that despite the initial mistake, both of the governor’s votes were counted.
“I’ve been here for more than seven years and it’s the first time I am aware of somebody who was removed for being deceased and it was a mistake,” said Tim Durham, Collier County deputy election supervisor. “It was the exact same name, Florida resident, identical date of birth.”
Scott mentioned his brief, encounter with the state’s provisional ballots during an interview with Preston Scott on WFLA Radio in Tallahassee Thursday morning.
“I had to vote provisionally because they said I’d passed away,” Scott said. “So I said, ‘I’m here, here’s my driver’s license, I’m really alive.’ And so they allowed me to vote provisionally. And then they went back and checked and said I was alive.”
Scott later repeated a version of the story in an interview with a Tampa station.
The revelation couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for Scott, who is battling with federal officials over the state’s effort to purge ineligible voters from Florida rolls.
Critics have said Scott’s efforts would disenfranchise some eligible voters mistakenly included in the list of those not allowed to cast ballots. But Durham said since Scott’s provisional votes were counted in 2006 – under a system set up following the 2000 recount to allow contested ballots to be cast and counted – it proves the system protects legitimate voters.
Scott spokesman Lane Wright said Thursday that the governor’s personal vignette bolsters his contention that the push to purge the voting rolls would not prevent eligible voters from casting ballots.
Florida’s provisional ballot process allows contested voters to cast ballots and requires local election officials to verify their status within 30 days.
“If there is any error, it is not going to prevent someone from voting,” Wright said Thursday.
Over the past several weeks, Scott has been at the center of the storm as state and federal agencies battle over a Scott-backed attempt to purge ineligible voters from the rolls. The Florida Secretary of State and the U.S. Department of Justice have traded lawsuits over the issue.
“The system is set up so that people can vote,” Wright said.