Hillsborough County ends its voter purge

As CL reported last week, a number of voting rights groups have already alerted Secretary of State Ken Dentzler that Florida?s plan to identify and remove alleged non-citizens from the voter rolls violates federal law and must cease immediately.

Specifically, they say the purge violates the National Voting Rights Act of 1993, which prohibits states from removing voters from the rolls within 90 days prior to a federal election. Florida held its presidential preference primary January 31, but the primary for House and Senate candidates will be held on August 14.

The letter sent by Florida Democrats on Tuesday (along with Castor, the other authors were Ted Deutch, Alcee Hastings, Corinne Brown, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson) stated that "providing a list of names with questionable validity ? created with absolutely no oversight ? to county supervisors and asking that they purge their rolls will create chaotic results and further undermine Floridians' confidence in the integrity of our elections.

"Given that this process fails to meet basic standards of accountability, and that the legal authority for automatic removal of registered voters is currently being challenged in both state and federal court, it is irresponsible to proceed so quickly and with so little room for oversight."

Latimer said he spoke to Division of Elections officials in Tallahassee on Tuesday who informed him that they are trying to improve the system. He says state election officials already got an earful two weeks ago in Tampa, when the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections held its annual meeting and members expressed their dismay with the accuracy of the lists sent to them by Tallahassee, especially with a primary scheduled for mid-August.

In addition to the six voters who were able to prove to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office that the state's database was incorrect, Craig Latimer says it's possible other registered voters received the certified letter and threw it away.

One voter told him he'd done just that. When Latimer called him, the voter said that he was born in Canada and that when he was very young, his parents came to the United States and obtained citizenship. He became a citizen as well. "'I served 12 years in the U.S. Navy,' he told Latimer. 'I threw your letter away.'"

Latimer said at that point he decided the SOE office would refrain from taking anyone else off the voting rolls.

  • Craig Latimer

On Tuesday Kathy Castor joined with five Democratic colleagues from the Florida Congressional delegation in asking Governor Rick Scott to immediately suspend the purge of names from Florida voter rolls in advance of November's election.

But in the Congresswoman's own district, that purge has already ceased.

Craig Latimer, chief of staff to Dr. Earl Lennard in the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections office, tells CL that his office received 72 names from Tallahassee labeled as "noncitizens" on April 13. The SOE's office then sent certified letters to those citizens informing them that they were ineligible to vote, adding that if they disputed that claim, they could come to the SOE's office to prove otherwise.

Latimer says that five people came to the office with their birth certificates proving they were born in the U.S. Another citizen came with a passport that also indicated U.S. citizenship.

"So at that point it was obvious it wasn't very credible and reliable information, so we suspended any further action."

State election officials say they're trying to insure that noncitizens — those who aren't eligible to vote — are purged before the election. Castor and the other Democrats say they agree that the right to vote should be reserved only to those who are eligible.

The problem is however, that the state is purging those who are citizens, fueling the passions of Democrats who have seen this movie before.

One such voter is Bill Internicola, a 91-year-old Brooklyn native who fought in World War II and lives in Broward County. He has voted in Florida for 14 years without a problem. But at a news conference in South Florida on Tuesday, Internicola revealed that he had received a letter from his local Supervisor of Elections office declaring that he was not a U.S. citizen. He was given the option of requesting a meeting with his local supervisor of elections.

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