Consider the case of Andre Fiset, a 59-year-old noncitizen from Quebec who lives in Hollywood. Records show he voted before 2006 — far back enough that no records survive to show if he actually signed in and cast a ballot at the polls. He said he didn’t.
“I don’t know what this is about,” Fiset said. “I didn’t vote. They keep sending me voter cards, but I never voted.”
He was removed last week from the voter rolls. It’s a state and federal felony for noncitizens to register as voters or cast ballots.
About 87 percent of those listed as potential noncitizens are minorities, a Miami Herald analysis showed. Hispanics and Haitians are Florida’s largest immigrant group. So any search of noncitizens will disproportionately target them.
Minorities account for 53 percent of the 87 confirmed noncitizens who have actually been removed from the rolls, a Herald analysis found.
Still, to liberal groups like MoveOn, the bottom-line statistics are proof that the noncitizen voter purge is “racist.”
Conservative activists are growing more vocal and are starting to actively back Scott, who addressed a Tea Party group Sunday in Tallahassee.
Non-Hispanic whites and Republicans are the least likely to face the prospect of being identified as noncitizens and removed from the rolls. Of those so far removed, 41 percent are Democrats, 22 percent are independents and 31 percent are Republicans — which largely mirrors the state’s party registration breakdown for its more than 11.3 million active voters.
“This is not a partisan issue,” Scott said Monday on the conservative FOX News show, Your World with Neil Cavuto, where he announced the state lawsuit. “This is an issue that we need to have fair elections in our state.”
But the Justice Department and ACLU said the process of Florida’s noncitizen purge program is the problem.
The ACLU sued Florida in federal court last week to stop the purge, saying the effort violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires Florida to get permission for election-law changes in Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties.
The Department of Justice said two weeks ago that the Florida effort probably violated the 1965 act as well as another federal law, the National Voter Registration Act, which bans voter purges within 90 days of a federal election, meaning the state is banned from purging the rolls after May 16.
But Secretary of State Detzner last week refused to stop and told DOJ in a letter that Justice is misreading federal law.
Detzner said Florida didn’t need to seek federal permission under the Voting Rights Act to embark on the purge because DOJ had already signed off on a state law that allows Florida to remove noncitizen voters. Also, he said, the 90-day ban on purging voters doesn’t apply to the removal of noncitizens.
Detzner and Scott have pointed out that Florida’s purge would have been conducted much sooner, but the Department of Homeland Security refused Florida the right to access the SAVE database, which details which immigrants become citizens.
Florida first asked DHS for the database last year. Federal law says the database has to be shared.
But, for the first time publicly in response to the voter-purge issue, the federal government finally explained that Florida might not be able to use the database because the SAVE Program requires “unique identifiers… found on immigration-related documents” to produce accurate checks.
Without SAVE, Florida’s elections division then began comparing the voter rolls with a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database, which contains some citizenship information.
But that information can be out of date. And that can lead the state to mistake a lawful voter as a potential noncitizen.
Those identified as noncitizens had 30 days to respond to county elections supervisors or risk being removed from the rolls after another 30 days. Florida law allows those who were removed to get back on the rolls and, if necessary, cast a provisional ballot on Election Day.
One wrongly identified potential noncitizen — 91-year-old Brooklyn-born, World War II vet Bill Internicola — didn’t just prove his citizenship. He called his congressman, held a press conference and became the face of the program’s errors.
The Justice Department referred to Internicola’s case in Perez’s letter.
“As one would expect with a new program that has not previously been tested against real-world information,” Perez wrote, “your program has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters.”