Bill Internicola was born in Brooklyn 91 years ago and received a Bronze Star for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II, but, according to the state of Florida, he may not be a U.S. citizen.
Internicola received a letter in May from the Broward Supervisor of Elections stating that it received "information from the State of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote." The letter was part of a controversial state-led effort to rid the voter rolls of noncitizens. Similar letters were sent to 259 Broward voters.
Internicola said he was “flabbergasted” by the suggestion that he wasn’t a citizen. He called the county’s election office and said: "Are you crazy?"
Internicola shared his story at a press conference Tuesday in Davie, where he was joined by two members of Congress: Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton) and Alcee Hastings (D-Miramar). The Democratic lawmakers say Internicola is an example of Gov. Rick Scott’s “misguided” effort to purge legal voters from the rolls before this year’s presidential elections.
Internicola said he sent Broward a copy of his Army discharge papers. He is one of six voters on the list who have provided paperwork to prove they are citizens, said Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the supervisor.
Broward was following the direction of the state Division of Elections, which initially identified roughly 180,000 potential noncitizens by searching a computer database from the state’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. But the drivers’ license list doesn’t automatically update when someone becomes a citizen.
The state whittled that list to more than 2,600 voters and forwarded those names to counties. A Miami Herald analysis of the list found it was dominated by Democrats, independents and Hispanics. The largest number were from Miami-Dade, home to the state’s highest foreign-born population.
In Miami-Dade, 359 voters have provided proof that they are citizens. The county determined on its own that an additional 26 were citizens, while 10 others either admitted they were ineligible or requested to be removed.
Voters have 30 days from the receipt of the letter to provide documentation of citizenship or they will be removed from the rolls.
Any effort to remove names from Broward’s voting rolls draws particular scrutiny because it is the most Democratic county in the state. It has more than 500,000 registered Democrats and could play a pivotal role in the outcome of a close presidential or U.S. Senate contest in November.
Deutch called Internicola an “American hero” and described him as “the face of Gov. Scott’s request to purge our voter rolls."
Internicola said he was born in Brooklyn to an American-born mother and Italian-immigrant father. He traveled to several countries in Europe during World War II working as a medic where his nickname was “Pepsi” — since his last name ends with “cola.” He got married, worked as a vice president of a restaurant chain in New York, had a son and daughter, and said he moved to Florida in the 1980s.
Broward voting records show that Internicola registered in 1991 and has been a frequent voter — including the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections — and in at least a couple of municipal elections. He’s a lifelong Democrat