There’s a good chance this crisis point could have been avoided a year ago when the state first asked Homeland Security for SAVE. The request was denied — even though DHS was supposed to give the state access under federal guidelines.
Homeland Security’s decision, in part, was based on the advice of the Department of Justice, where Attorney General Eric Holder’s staff has opposed a number of voter laws promulgated by Republican lawmakers throughout the nation.
The Justice Department sued the state over its voter purge this summer. The day before, the state sued Homeland Security for access to the SAVE database.
The state then received a favorable court ruling, leading DHS to give the state access to SAVE, which includes unique “alien” identifiers of immigrants who are both citizens and noncitizens. About 1,700 registered voters on the original list had alien identifiers recognized by SAVE. Of them, 209 were initially identified as noncitizens, however, the state as winnowed the list to 198.
Among those are some mysteries.
Consider the case of Montague Rodney, a 78-year-old Miami Democrat who records say has voted in 33 elections. He has been identified as a potential noncitizen voter.
“I’m not a citizen,” Rodney said by telephone when asked by a Herald reporter. “I haven’t voted.”
He then gave the phone to his daughter, Rachel Rodney, who insisted her father is a U.S. citizen who was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She said her father gets forgetful, but she’ll make sure his voting status is sorted out before Election Day.
For North Miami resident Luckner Bastien, the list was an eye-opener. A native of Haiti and former U.S. Marine, he said he’s not a citizen and has no idea how he wound up listed as a registered voter.
The state’s voter rolls indicate he cast his first and only ballot in the disputed 2000 presidential elections, a month after he turned 18.
“That’s news to me,” he said in an interview with The Herald. “I never voted.”
It’s a third-degree felony for a noncitizen to register or vote. The governor has said he wants to make sure the voter rolls are stripped of unlawful voters whose ballots counteract the votes of the law-abiding electorate.
In targeting noncitizens, however, the state will disproportionately sweep up minorities who tend to comprise the bulk of the immigrant population.
The voter purge has put Neville Walters on the spot.
A 62-year-old North Miami Beach resident, Walters said he was born in the U.S. Virgin Islands and moved to Jamaica as a young boy before he immigrated to the United States in 1985.
He said he doesn’t know how he was registered to vote and that he doesn’t remember whether he cast ballots in seven elections since 2000, as records show.
“They sent me a voter registration paper; I never vote,” he said. “Maybe they made a mistake.”
Miami Herald staff writers Daniel Chang and Sergio R. Bustos contributed to this report.