Florida’s noncitizen voter-purge program roared back to life Wednesday when Gov. Rick Scott’s elections department produced a new list of 198 potentially ineligible voters — including 36 who might have cast ballots illegally.
The list, along with a stack of documentation, was sent to the independent county elections supervisors who are ultimately in charge of maintaining and purging voter rolls.
At the same time, state attorneys for each of the concerned counties could begin examining whether to bring criminal charges against any noncitizen who has voted.
The decision to push ahead with the controversial program just 41 days before Election Day in the nation’s biggest battleground state is already the subject of three separate federal lawsuits from a coalition of liberal-leaning groups as well as President Barack Obama’s Justice Department.
Republicans are the least likely to be identified as potential noncitizens on the list when compared to independents and Democrats. Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanic whites or African Americans to be flagged, a Miami Herald analysis determined.
Some of the people on the new list — based on new state access to a federal citizenship database — told The Herald that they are citizens. Others said they aren’t. Some who appeared to have voted, according to records, denied they did.
But Anita Caragan of Panama City Beach, a U.S. resident who is not a citizen, told a Herald reporter that she has been voting “for a long, long time.” Records show the no-party-affiliation noncitizen has cast ballots in 10 Florida elections since 2000.
The 73-year-old Caragan, who moved to the United States in 1970 from the Philippines, said that when she was living in Norfolk, Va., more than 35 years ago, she renewed her driver’s license and registered to vote at the same time, without realizing it was illegal.
Her husband — 82-year-old Emiliano, who also immigrated from the Philippines and served 21 years in the U.S. Navy — is a citizen but said he wasn’t aware his wife isn’t supposed to vote with just a green card. Both are planning to vote in November.
“Of course we’re going to vote,” he said. “We both have voter registration cards.”
Another potential noncitizen, Tampa resident Paul Hogg, appears to have voted in Broward County in the 2004 presidential elections, records show. Hogg refused to comment.
“I’m uncomfortable discussing this,” the 53-year-old registered Democrat told The Herald by phone before hanging up. “I’ll talk to the elections office.”
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office said the new list was produced by comparing Florida’s 12-million-person voter rolls with a federal immigration database called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.
“This is a new process based on the SAVE database,” said Detzner’s spokesman, Chris Cate.
“The state is not telling county elections supervisors, ‘Remove these people.’ We are providing information for the counties to examine,” Cate said. “The supervisors have the discretion to keep anyone who is on this list on the voter rolls.”
Under state law, county elections supervisors will send a certified letter to anyone flagged as a potential noncitizen. The person will have to show proof of citizenship to remain on the rolls.