Rev. Jesse Jackson and U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch, both Florida Democrats, call it “voter suppression.” The ACLU has filed three lawsuits against the voter purge. Conservative tea partiers are adamant that foreigners not vote in Florida. Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Florida Department of Elections spokesperson say nonsense: “We are firmly committed to do the right thing and prevent ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot,” referring to the removal of ineligible voters: felons, dead people and noncitizens.
The U.S. Department of Justice on May 31 ordered Florida to halt any systematic effort to find and purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizens, based on the 1965 U.S. Voting Rights Act and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, both signed into law by Democratic presidents. The original 182,000 purge list is down to 2,625, of which 141 noncitizens have been found. Miami-Dade County’s supervisor of elections says the list has errors of 33 percent. Also, 87 percent of the list are minorities.
The Miami Herald’s political reporter, Marc Caputo, wrote in his May 14 column that, “Apathy, not the law, cuts voting most.” To which editorial page columnist Joy-Ann Reid answered in her May 30 column, that “kicking potential Democratic voters off the rolls might be Republicans’ best hope” to carry Florida this Nov. 6.
Who is right? They all are. It’s part of the new political ritual of electing a U.S. president.
In 2011 the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 1355, a rewrite of our state’s election laws. Of course, it was a partisan slant that helps Republicans. The law was passed by an overwhelming Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by a tea party Republican governor. Similar laws have been passed in three other GOP battleground states.
Nobody wants “illegals” to be the ones whose votes matter in close elections in battleground states. But, it is un-American to discriminate against a legal citizen. The great thing about “American Exceptionalism” is that it is ever growing, expanding culturally, without abandoning core rules as outlined in our Constitution.
What of the larger issue — a pluralistic, multiethnic/racial United States of America? Can these new immigrants become good Americans, like the Irish Catholics, Russians, Polish, German Jews, Italians and Scandinavians did a century ago? The answer is: It depends on education and assimilation.
More than half of the growth in the United States from 2000 to 2010 was from Hispanic births. About 25 percent of U.S. public-school students are Hispanic. Other demographers predict that by 2030, 40 percent of the U.S. workforce will be Hispanic. By 2050 one in three Americans likely will be Hispanic. Others explain that for the United States to compete with China, we would need to have an average college-educated population of 60 percent. Today, the average Latino college education level in the United States is 13 percent. China and India each are graduating more engineers, science and math majors than the United States.
Tens of millions of blue-collar workers are unemployed and unemployable (there are more than 3.7 million high-tech jobs unfilled today in the United States). This has caused understandable anger and angst, reflected in the increasing number of white, blue-collar voters leaning Republican. In 2008, 54 percent of all white American voters voted Republican; in Florida it was 55 percent. The white Republican vote in the Sunshine State is now 57 percent, according to recent polls. If six million non-Hispanic white Floridians vote in 2012, every percentage point equates to 60,000 votes. You do the math.
If in 2012 Florida’s vote goes to 8.5 million, you need 4.25 million popular votes, plus one, to win Florida’s 29 Electoral College votes. President Obama got almost 4.3 million votes, winning Florida by 236,000 votes. If Obama gets 2.6 million white votes in Florida in 2012, can he get 1.6 million nonwhite voters?
By Nov. 6, there will be over 3.5 million “nonwhite” registered voters in Florida. For Obama to win he has to bring out a 70 percent turnout and get more than 65 percent of that minority vote.
This simple sequential logic is why the Obama campaign is so overwhelmingly engaged in a ground campaign. If the president is able, as in the past, to get over 50 percent of the female vote, with a good minority vote turnout, he can carry Florida.
It’s all about winning presidential elections in our always evolving democracy. Maurice A. Ferre is a former Miami mayor, Miami-Dade County commissioner and state legislator.