Florida is “working on a response” to the U.S. Department of Justice’s questions about its efforts to remove ineligible voters from the rolls and hopes to be able to respond by today’s deadline, Gov. Rick Scott said Wednesday morning, reports the News Service of Florida.
Federal officials have asked the state to tell Washington by today whether it intends to continue notifying some voters that they have been flagged as potentially ineligible because their names match names on a separate state database of possible non-citizens.
The effort has come in for criticism, including from local elected elections supervisors, because a number of the people flagged for possible removal have been able to prove their right to vote, showing they either are natural-born or naturalized citizens.
Scott also said Wednesday that no one who is eligible to vote has been removed from the rolls, because letters have gone out first warning people before they are removed. People who don’t respond are supposed to be removed, but many supervisors have balked at that, fearing the prospect that they may actually be eligible.
“Not a single eligible voter as far, as I know, has been removed from the voter rolls,” Scott said in an interview with WNDB radio in Daytona Beach, where Scott was Wednesday. “Not one. And we’re working to keep it that way.”
Scott again defended the process as necessary to protect the impact of legitimate voters’ choices.
“Their vote should not be diluted by people who don’t have the right to vote,” Scott said. “We need to be reviewing our voter rolls and making sure only those individuals who have the right to vote … are voting.”
WNDB also asked Scott about a concern raised by Volusia County Elections Supervisor Ann McFall, who questioned recently why Scott didn’t order the check and purge of voter rolls last year, rather than waiting until less than 90 days before the August primary election. That’s one of the major concerns of the Department of Justice – federal standards generally require that regular, systematic cleaning of voter rolls, which generally occur in an ongoing fashion, stop 90 days before an election and resume after the vote.
Scott didn’t directly answer why the state was doing the purge now, saying that he would have liked it to happen sooner, and that state officials had hoped to get access to a federal Homeland Security database to better check the names, but hadn’t been granted that access. Why state officials decided to go forward with the purge while still waiting on Homeland Security, Scott hasn’t said.
“We don’t want people that don’t have a right to participate in elections,” Scott said. As to the Justice Department’s request for information on what the state plans to do now, Scott said it’s in the works.
“We’re working on a response. Hopefully we’ll be able to respond today,” Scott said before changing the subject. “But you know the most important thing? It’s jobs.”
The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections has suggested to local supervisors of elections – who don’t officially answer to Scott because they’re independently elected – that they hold off on actually removing voters they can’t contact because of the Justice Department’s concerns, and those of several supervisors.
In addition to the 90-day issue, the federal government also is concerned that major changes in election law are supposed to be approved by Washington before being made in five Florida counties with a history of discrimination. No such federal approval for voter purges was sought for the current effort, though that may be less of an issue because supervisors routinely cull people from voter rolls when they’re found to be ineligible, such as when they’ve died, or moved out of state.