Lee Co. Supervisor of Elex: Not zealous with voter purge, just prepared

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Of the 96 people purged from Florida voter rolls because they’re in the country illegally, about half were in Lee County in southwest Florida, a fact the county’s supervisor of elections says does not mean she is on a crusade, reports Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida.

Florida’s purging of voters has become the grist for lawsuits, and late night comedy as the Republican controlled state has battled the Democratic Obama administration over how to go about removing ineligible voters. Adding nuance to the story: the state doesn’t actually do the removals – that’s done by independently-elected county supervisors of elections who don’t necessarily answer to Tallahassee.

The state Division of Elections says that 43 of 96 voters found in the last couple months to be illegally registered because they’re not citizens were registered in Lee County, which includes Fort Myers.

Lee County Supervisor of Elections Sharon Harrington told the News Service of Florida on Wednesday that the high number of names from the county is the result of an ongoing, cooperative effort between her office and the local clerk of courts that allowed her to more quickly find ineligible voters. She was just being prepared, she said.

“No, I’m not a vulture,” said Harrington, a Republican.

Every month, Harrington’s office gets a report from the local clerk of courts with the names of potential jurors who asked to be excused from duty because they were not citizens. Those names are matched with the county’s official voter rolls.

The results showed that nearly half of those potential jurors who said they weren’t citizens were listed in her files as being eligible to vote.

What’s not known is whether they lied when they registered to vote, or lied in court to get out of jury duty.

“That’s the question,” Harrington said.

Either way, they’ve sworn in court that they’re not citizens, so her office is removing them from voter rolls.

The voters found by Lee County aren’t necessarily among those identified by the state in its controversial purge effort. The state has identified more than 2,600 voters it wants county officials to check out for possible purging – but Harrington’s office has found several potentially illegal voters there based on its jury duty check, separate from the state-initiated purge. Many of those found by Lee County aren’t on the state’s list.

Harrington said she suggested that other election supervisors adopt the cross check with local juror pools as a way to alert them to potential ineligible voters – and citizens shirking their civic duty.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.