Jeb Bush admitted Monday that he made a “mistake” in 2009 when he listed his ethnicity in a Miami-Dade County voter-registration form as “Hispanic.”
The likely 2016 Republican presidential contender is, obviously, not Hispanic, at least not by birth. Yet that’s what he ticked as his “race/ethnicity” in the form filed March 6, 2009.
It was a response to a lighthearted jab from his son Jeb Bush Jr.,
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The younger Bush made the post in reference to a story by the New York Times revealing the elder Bush’s confusing registration, filed after he left the Florida governor’s mansion. A Bush spokeswoman couldn’t explain the discrepancy to the Times. She declined to elaborate Monday to the Miami Herald.
The Miami-Dade elections department requires a hard copy of the form, which needs the applicant’s signature.
Bush’s wife, Columba, is Mexican American, so she and their children are Hispanic. And Bush is, in the literal sense of the word, “Hispanic” — that is, he speaks Spanish. He met his wife in León, Mexico, and as a young married couple they lived in Caracas, Venezuela.
Politicians have been dragged down in the past by messing up on government forms. In 2012, Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren misrepresented herself as a Native American during her Senate race, prompting significant backlash. For Bush, identifying as Hispanic wouldn’t have resulted in any political gain.
Miami’s Cuban Americans already consider Bush an honorary member of their community, given that his ties to the exile establishment run so deep.
Florida law requires proof of “willful” deceit to penalize someone for misrepresenting information on a voter form, Democratic elections lawyer Ron Meyer said. Bush appears to have just been careless.
“A person who willfully swears falsely to any oath is guilty of a felony. The question is, was it sloppy or was he trying indeed to pass as a Hispanic?” Meyer said. “It’s at least embarrassing, if not prison-worthy.”