You may recall that the Republican response to claims that they were working from a flawed database to purge people that were not citizens from the voter rolls in Florida was that the Department of Homeland Security would not give them access to the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) database, so they had no other choice but to use their own flawed list based on DMV records. The SAVE database contains a list of legal residents who are not citizens.
The Department of Justice explained to Florida in a letter dated 11 June 2012 that it was Florida's own fault that they could not access the database, because Florida refused to provide the necessary data to search the database. Just a name and date of birth was not sufficient:
In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE Program is simply wrong. By your own admission, Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE Program can verify naturalized and derived United States Citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers, and where necessary, the underlying documentation. But Florida has failed either to provide the necessary information to DHS, or to confirm that the necessary information would be available for verification purposes under the SAVE Program. As a result, the significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation.Florida filed a lawsuit in June against the DOJ and Homeland Security to gain access to the SAVE database. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, though, ruled that the 90-day provision did not apply to removing noncitizens, who can't legally register to vote. This ruling was reported on 27 June 2012:
A judge on Wednesday rejected the federal government’s attempt to block Florida’s voter purge of non-U.S. citizens, partly because the purge has been suspended.So part of the reason the Judge rejected the Government's attempt to block the purge was because the purge had already been stopped. So guess what? I am not happy to be sharing this news, but today Rick Scott and the Florida GOP are claiming a victory because Homeland Security has agreed in the form of a letter (which I have not been able to find a copy of online), to allow the State access to the SAVE database:
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said federal laws that prohibit the systematic removal of voters close to an election do not refer to noncitizens. He also accepted the state’s claim that its purging efforts are over for now.
The ruling came as part of a request by the U.S. Department of Justice, which sought a retraining order stopping the purge efforts.
A year-long stalemate between Florida and Washington ended Saturday when the federal government gave the state access to a comprehensive federal citizenship database, which the state will use to resume an election-year purge of noncitizen voters.Wasting no time, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a letter on Saturday to county election supervisors statewide:
It wasn't clear why Homeland Security changed course and the department had no comment Saturday. But the reversal comes after a federal judge in Florida refused to halt purge efforts.
Within days, Florida will resume the laborious process of purging non-citizens from the list of 11.2 million registered voters. A previous purge based on a flawed list of 2,700 drivers with voter cards who were suspected of being noncitizens ended last month when county election supervisors decided the list was inaccurate and unreliable.
"Based on the work we have completed during the past year, it is an unfortunate but now undeniable fact that Florida’s voter rolls include a number of non-citizens. These ineligible registered voters must be removed to ensure the integrity of our elections. Under our new partnership with DHS, the Department of State is now better equipped to accurately identify these non-citizens through a careful and deliberate process not possible only days ago," Detzner said in the letter.
I've been trying to find a copy of the actual letter that was sent to Florida. So far I've only been able to find quotes from the letter, and this one from The New York Times seems to provide more information.
Florida is not the first state to gain access to the SAVE database. The letter granting Florida permission to use it, which was dated July 9, says that five counties in Arizona are now during so. The program provides immigration status information from more than 100 million records maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.So while Rick Scott and the Florida GOP are touting this as a win for their voter purge efforts, let's look at the reality of what has happened. When they started this purge attempt, they were using a database of over 180,000 people that came from Florida DMV records to identify people to be purged. They started by sending out letters to 2,700 people on the list. If the recipient of those letters did not respond by proving that they were U.S. citizens, it was assumed that they were not citizens, and they were purged from the voter rolls. We all saw the stories about Veterans and other citizens who received some of those letters.
According to the letter — signed by a Homeland Security official, Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services —to verify the citizenship status of people registered to vote in Florida, officials must provide evidence that the person is indeed a noncitizen, like an alien number. Those numbers are typically given to people who are living in the country legally as noncitizens. Under federal law, such individuals are not permitted to vote.
That restriction will prevent Florida from solely using driver’s license information, as it did when the state compiled its initial list of 182,000 voters believed to be noncitizens. The SAVE database can provide no information on illegal immigrants who may have registered to vote.
Now that Florida has access to the SAVE database, they must first prove that somebody is not a U.S. Citizen before removing that person from the voter rolls. I call that a win for our side there will be scrutiny as to how these purges are conducted going forward.
As a citizen of Florida, I just want to know where the funds and manpower are coming from to perform the "laborious process of purging non-citizens from the list of 11.2 million registered voters."
We all know why the Florida GOP is so anxious to purge our voter rolls, and today's update from Nate Silver explains why the stakes are so high:
We haven’t usually been running forecast updates on the weekend, but a Florida poll will always get our attention. In this case, it’s a new poll from Mason-Dixon, released on Saturday, that shows President Obama with a nominal 1-percentage-point lead there over Mitt Romney.
Our model shows Florida as close as can be. It projects the Nov. 6 result as Mr. Obama 49.5 percent, Mr. Romney 49.4 percent — an outcome that would be close enough to trigger another recount.
Mr. Obama has led in the majority of Florida polls recently — five of seven since June 1. The model hedges against these polls a bit because Florida is normally a bit Republican-leaning and its economy is doing quite poorly. That’s how it gets a tie there.