By: Lauren Saccone
As the countdown to the 2012 presidential election continues, the public is focusing more and more on voter fraud. Although reports of voter fraud nationwide are extremely low, the issue is a source of constant concern for politicians. The fear of ineligible voters turning the tide of an election has led to increasingly strict voter regulations. And once again, it seems that Florida will be the battleground that determines the President of the United States.
Florida Governor Rick Scott has made it his personal mission to ensure only eligible American citizens vote in elections. His increasingly stringent voting laws have culminated in a statewide purge of non-American citizens from Florida voter rolls. Unfortunately, the list Governor Scott was working from, which contained approximately 182,000 people, did not accurately categorize ineligible voters.
The list, which was culled from the Department of Motor Vehicles, has been decried as horribly outdated. Additionally, it has been criticized for targeting minority groups and independent voters, who turned out in large numbers for President Obama in the 2008 election.
“For example, Hispanics compromise 58% of the list, but just 13% of eligible voters,” wrote Judd Legum for ThinkProgress. To make matters worse for the Governor, people on the list have come forward with inarguable proof of their United States citizenship. Governor Scott is now dealing with accusations that his attempts to prevent voter fraud could be more correctly characterized as voter suppression.
This has led to serious concerns about attempted voter suppression, with activist groups condemning Governor Scott for his prejudiced list. Last week, the Department of Justice even got involved in the situation. In a letter sent to Ken Detzner, Florida’s Secretary of State, the Department of Justice demanded that the purge stop immediately. Besides potentially violating numerous voter rights acts, it is illegal for states to remove voter names 90 days before an election and Florida’s primary elections are scheduled for August 14th.
Florida’s officials have opted against complying with the Department of Justice. They fully intend to continue purging voters they believe to be ineligible, despite mounting evidence of both the flaws in their system and the illegal nature of their methods. In a move that makes the politics of this situation all too clear, the Chairman of Florida’s Republican Party, Lenny Curry, has vowed to assist in continuing the process.
“The Republican Party of Florida’s position is we want to make sure that everyone that has the right to vote is registered to vote and casts their ballot on Election Day under the rule of law,” Curry told reporters.
Florida has until Wednesday to officially respond to the letter from the Department of Justice. But civil rights groups are already protesting the behavior.
“It’s distressing and disheartening that this is happening again in Florida given the history of inaccurate voter purges of the past,” Marcia Johnson-Blanco, co director of the Voting Rights Project, told reporters.
In 2000, Florida was charged with changing the entire course of the presidential election due to voting complications. It’s frightening to imagine, 12 years later, how little we’ve learned from that experience.
[Pic via Flickr - Erik Hersman]