“I find the state’s Non-Citizens Match list to be unreliable and insufficient, on its own,” Townsley said.
Still, if people respond to her office by telling it they’re noncitizens, they’ll be removed. But, for now, Townsley’s doing no more. Had she not halted the process, those potential noncitizens who had not responded to the certified letters sent by her office would have been removed from the rolls within about 60 days.
Now, those who do not respond to the letters will remain on the rolls.
Collier County has adopted the same policy as Miami-Dade, a spokesman said. Collier has removed 10 people from the rolls.
Democratic, liberal and minority-rights groups have expressed concern with the fact that 87 percent of those on the potential noncitizens list are minorities.
Meantime, conservative tea party groups have started to support Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and Detzner. Some are starting to visit local elections supervisors to make sure the noncitizen checks continue or restart. “We’re going to keep the pressure on, all over the state,” said Billie Tucker, co-founder of the First Coast Tea Party in Jacksonville. “We want noncitizen voters prosecuted. We don’t know how many are out there.”
Critics of the state’s program said they were concerned the program put the burden of proof on voters, the overwhelming number of whom so far have been shown to be lawful citizens.
The Department of Justice last week said the state’s purge came too late. Under a federal law commonly known called “motor voter,” state purges must end 90 days before a federal election — May 16 this year. (The Florida state primary is Aug. 14.)
DOJ also said the Voting Rights Act of 1965 required the state to get permission for the purge.
But Detzner disagreed. He said in a response Wednesday that the federal government had already given the state permission for noncitizen voter purges in the past. And, he said, the 90-day no-purge rule only applies to programs that remove once-eligible voters who become ineligible.
Since noncitizens have never been eligible to vote, they can be systematically identified and removed at any time, Detzner said in his letter. He also asked the DOJ to answer by Monday questions about removing noncitizen voters and whether Homeland Security should cough up its database.
“I can get Penelope Townsley and the other supervisors where they want to be,” Detzner said. “I’m an eternal optimist.”