FLORIDA

Detzner’s voter purge a losing gambit

 
 
REID
REID

joyannreid@gmail.com

What happens when a party simply gives up on voter persuasion?

That’s the question one could ask in the wake of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court’s finding that a voter roll purge by the Rick Scott administration in the summer of 2012 violated the National Voter Registration Act by seeking to systematically remove up to 180,000 Floridians from the voter rolls within 90 days of the 2012 election.

The purge snared two Miami women: Karla Arcia, a Nicaraguan immigrant, and Melande Antoine, who is Haitian American. Both women are naturalized U.S. citizens and very much eligible to vote. But as they prepared to vote in the August primary, they discovered that they had made Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s list, and they, along with three groups with substantial immigrant membership, filed suit.

The court also found that those groups — the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights and the SEIU Local 11 — were injured as well, by being forced to divert resources away from their normal activities to try to fight the impact of the purge and make sure that members of their groups were able to vote.

Detzner’s ostensible reason for the purge was to remove ineligible noncitizens from the rolls and prevent “voter fraud.” Of course, neither he nor any member of his party produced evidence that people were showing up at the polls in the Sunshine State and pretending to be someone else. And according to the attorneys who successfully litigated the women’s case, 82 percent of those who received notices challenging their eligibility were people of color.

Detzner’s original mammoth list shrank mightily after its first contact with a federal database: first to 2,600 names, and then to 198. In the end, the state of Florida yanked just 85 people off the voter rolls, though who can say whether among them were eligible voters with Hispanic or Creole surnames, like Arcia and Antoine.

Detzner tried to claim the women had no standing to sue because, ultimately, they were allowed to vote. But the court found that what his office put these women and other eligible voters through was a violation of their rights and that the women were “directly injured by it when they were wrongly identified as noncitizens.”

The court also concluded that the three organizations “also represent a large number of people, like Arcia and Antoine, who face a realistic danger of being identified in the secretary’s removal programs because of their names or status as naturalized citizens,” and that the case is still relevant, so long after the 2012 election, because “there is a reasonable expectation that the same complaining party will be subject to the same action again.”

And why not? Detzner’s party has made the calculation, across the country and in Florida, that it has little hope of attracting new voters among the fast-growing Latino population. And while Haitian Americans were a key target of efforts by former Gov. Jeb Bush to boost the party’s prospects with black Americans back in 2004 when his brother was running for reelection, purges and voter ID schemes and other attempts to make it harder for minority voters to get to the polls have become the GOP’s first option to deal with the demographic hurdles they face in national elections. There simply aren’t enough white voters to sustain the party for the long term.

Like the tripling down on Obamacare “repeal” even in the wake of 7.1 million private insurance sign-ups (and another 8 million via the Medicaid expansion, plus those 26 and younger who are signed up on their parents’ plans) the Republican strategy of playing keep-away with minority voters and the franchise comes with very real risks.

The notion that the Republican Party favors disenfranchisement over outreach (or immigration reform) could ingrain in Latino voters the notion that the GOP is a hostile party uninterested in expanding the electorate to include them. And with Latino voters already favoring the healthcare law, taking the pro-choice position disproportionately and preferring Democratic economic proposals, it’s hard to see what the party has to gain by blocking access to the polls.

Detzner has tried a number of gambits, including limiting the sites where elections supervisors could accept absentee-ballot drop-offs, and he has received no harder fight than from the local elections officials themselves.

These actions aren’t happening in a vacuum. The women injured by the purge sued. And Democrats plan to rally their voters around the notion of protecting precious access to the polls.

And yet, Republicans are stuck in this groove because their increasingly alienated base demands it. Meaning that any chance of shifting from disenfranchisement to persuasion is probably moot.

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

  • CONGRESS

    Senators earn an ‘A’ for sexual assault bill

    Sen. Marco Rubio doesn’t have much time for Democrats. But he does have two daughters. And so it was that Wednesday morning, he found himself standing in solidarity with a bipartisan group of senators that included Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand and Claire McCaskill as they announced legislation to curb the scourge of sexual assault on U.S. campuses.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">HARASSMENT:</span> Members of the Ladies in White opposition movement, relatives of imprisoned dissidents who draw inspiration from their faith, were arrested during a peaceful march in Havana last month.

    HUMAN RIGHTS

    Support religious freedom in Cuba

    This year marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s current government and July 26 commemorated the 61st anniversary of the revolution which swept it into power. After coming to power, the Castro government broke its pro-democracy pledges and, despite recent improvements, maintains a problematic record on human rights, including religious freedom.

  •  
SOLOW

    MIGRANT CRISIS

    Easy fix to offer relief to immigration courts

    Much has been written about the strain placed on the immigration court system by the recent influx of minors from Central America. A little known fact about the Immigration Court system, unlike every court in the land, virtually no immigration court cases are resolved without a hearing.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category