If you thought Republicans and their newly-minted mediocre nominee Mitt Romney were simply going to give up easy and allow President Obama to sail to a re-election victory in 2012 you thought wrong. There is a massive effort underway by Republican Governor Rick Scott in the must win battleground state of Florida to purge voters from the rolls.
According to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, this purge was initiated by a request last year from Governor Scott who wanted to “identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” Now you might be asking yourself, "Well what’s wrong with that?" Nothing, except for the fact that when reliable information on voters could not be found the Governor went with the next “best” thing, which was to compare voter registration information with the state’s department of motor vehicle database. The result is story after story of voters who should be eligible but who have been mistakenly purged from the rolls and emerging concerns that the Florida election fiasco of 2000 is set to repeat itself.
In 2000, Florida’s Republican governor Jeb Bush (George W. Bush’s brother) and Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris undertook a similar effort to purge voters from the rolls to make sure that felons who are not eligible to vote in the state would not be permitted to do so by mistake. That premise was enough for the state to begin the process of removing those ineligible names from the list of voters who were permitted to vote. The big purge list was contracted out to a private company and the final purge list produced was riddled with errors and included people who were not felons. In the end Florida purged about 173,000 people (a list which disproportionately included voters of color) and in the final recount George W. Bush became president winning Florida by 537 votes.
There are disturbing stories coming out the state right now as wrongly-purged voters receive notices that they are suddenly ineligible to vote. Think Progress recently reported on the story of Bill Internicola, a 91-year-old WWII veteran who was born in Brooklyn and has lived and voted in the state of Florida for the past 15 years. Three weeks ago, Internicola received a letter from Broward Country stating that he was not a U.S. citizen and was thus ineligible to vote in the upcoming election. In the letter, he was given the option of a requesting a hearing with the supervisor of elections. And Internicola is just the first of many stories of eligible voter removed from the rolls by mistake.
Another story is that of Maureen Russo who was born in Akron, Ohio. Russo who has been voting in Florida for nearly four decades received the same letter claiming that she was not a citizen and that she was ineligible to vote with the same line about requesting a hearing. One of the problems is that a person receiving the letter only has 30 days to request the hearing and then they have to take the time out of their schedule to prove what is already true – that they are eligible to vote. Essentially, it’s asking these citizens for their “papers.”
And it’s not random voters being purged from the rolls. The Miami Herald reported that, “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida's voting rolls.” These are the voters most likely to support President Obama. It is not hyperbolic to say that that this voting purge could be another boldfaced attempt by Republicans to steal another presidential election and it’s clear that we need to keep a very close eye on Florida and also know all the correct information about voting in every state to prevent another 2000.
Zerlina Maxwell is a political analyst and soon-to-be attorney. You can follow her on Twitter: @ZerlinaMaxwell