Political Animal


May 18, 2012 8:52 AM Gee, That Sounds Familiar

By Ed Kilgore

The State of Florida, likely to be a key battleground in the 2012 elections, is hastily undertaking a purge of voter rolls using methods that seem to be unusually clumsy and inaccurate.

Hmmm. Pre-election voting purge in Florida. Lot of errors. Where have I heard that before?

Yeah, just before the 2000 elections, Florida launched a purge aimed at removing convicted felons from the rolls. It was a mess, as WaPo’s Robert Pierre reported in 2001:

The Tampa residents were among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-felons in Florida who civil rights lawyers contend were wrongly prevented from voting in the Nov. 7 election after state election officials and a private contractor bungled an attempt to cleanse felons from voter rolls.
The effort was so riddled with errors that a more precise tally will probably never be possible. But it is clear that at least 2,000 felons whose voting rights had been automatically restored in other states were kept off the rolls and, in many cases, denied the right to vote.

As I recall, 2,000 is a very low estimate of how many people were wrongly removed from the rolls in this particular botched purge.

So how’s the current purge—this time focused on identifying non-citizens—going? Not so hot, as the New York Times’ Lizette Alvarez reports:

The state was found to be using a flawed process to pinpoint noncitizens on the voter rolls by relying on an outdated driver’s license database. Some of the people on an initial list of 2,700 possible noncitizens sent to county election supervisors were either naturalized citizens or were born in the United States.
Election supervisors were asked to send letters to these voters, requiring them to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days, or their names would be dropped from the registration roll. In recent days, some of the supervisors had expressed concern over the validity of the state’s search.

The purge is bringing back bad memories in Florida, all right:

The push to crack down on the way Floridians vote, and how they register to vote, is viewed by some as an effort to single out Democratic voters, many of them black and Hispanic. Florida has been accused in past elections of unfairly trying to remove from the rolls former felons who are eligible to vote.
The new scrub of registered voters is no different, said Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
“It’s a purging process that is based on what the state already acknowledges to be inaccurate information,” Mr. Simon said. “It really raises questions as to whether or not this is yet another partisan effort to scrub the voting rolls. We know it’s inaccurate because people from as far away as Pensacola to Miami have come forward to say, ‘I am a U.S. citizen. I am eligible to vote.’ ”

Last year Florida enacted legislation called for by Gov. Rick Scott to “reform” elections by reducing the early voting period and also making it harder to vote for people who had moved since the last election (a measure apparently aimed at students).

Yep, nothing like an impending presidential election to get Florida Republicans all interested in election administration. Too bad they seem to be so incompetent about it.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • stormskies on May 18, 2012 9:19 AM:

    Surprise, surprise Repiglicans not only hate democracy but doing all they can to cheat and try to steal yet another presidential election. They are nothing more than sadistic thugs who have no actual principles at all. Their only principle is to win at all costs and then to impose their delusions on every one else.

  • martin on May 18, 2012 9:29 AM:

    Too bad they seem to be so incompetent about it.

    Depends how you define "incompentent." If they manage to munge things up enough to get their desired results, who's to say they weren't competent?

  • Peter C on May 18, 2012 9:43 AM:

    "But it is clear that at least 2,000 felons whose voting rights had been automatically restored in other states were kept off the rolls and, in many cases, denied the right to vote."

    As I understand, disenfranchising felons was only a small part of the problem. The BIG problem was that partisan officials purged the voter rolls of all voters named 'George Lopez' or 'Samuel Jackson' when a 'George Lopez' or 'Samuel Jackson' had been convicted of a felony. So, one felon was removed ALONG WITH many valid voters who showed up at polls to learn only then that their voting rights had been taken away. It seemed to happen to ethnic-sounding names with alarming frequency. There were also no 'provisional ballots' either.

    All this happened while people like Katherine Harris and Kenneth Blackwell (who were also state re-election chairmen for Bush) were running the entire election system.

    When the Green and Libertarian parties brought a lawsuit about the 2004 results and the judge ordered all the election materials preserved, the relevant records were all 'accidentally' destroyed. "Ooopsie!"

    The problem is NOT voter fraud; it's ELECTION FRAUD. In several states we STILL have paperless electronic voting machines where there is no permanent record of each vote and where the program which runs the machine may not be independently reviewed because it is 'proprietary information' owned by the machine manufacturer.

  • boatboy_srq on May 18, 2012 10:00 AM:

    Florida, not patriotism, is the last refuge of scoundrels. The political machinations are just one illustration.

    Take it from someone who escaped.

  • N.Wells on May 18, 2012 10:11 AM:

    Why don't the R's just 'get it out of their system' by removing all Democratic voters from the rolls on the grounds that not voting republican equals fraudulent and incompetent voting, and be done with it?

  • Ralf on May 18, 2012 10:11 AM:

    Its absurd to say the private contractor bungled the project. I'm sure they did exactly as they were told. Not in writing of course. But in their off-the-record, non-traceable conversations about the actual plan.

    A credulous media thinks it's bungling. But it's only bungling if you get caught. Ask Nixon.

  • paul on May 18, 2012 11:01 AM:

    Civil right, check.
    Under color of law, check.
    Because of race, creed, color or national original, sorta-check.

  • pol on May 18, 2012 12:10 PM:

    People in all states need to start checking their voter registration status NOW. This tactic could be happening anywhere.

  • SecularAnimist on May 18, 2012 12:22 PM:

    Ed Kilgore: "Too bad they seem to be so incompetent about it."

    Are you crazy? Incompetent? The Republicans are experts at stealing elections through massive voter disenfranchisement.

    This is exactly how they stole the Florida election from Al Gore and installed Bush as president in the bloodless coup of 2000.

    Now they are going to do the exact same thing to steal the 2012 Florida election from Obama and install Romney as president.

    The only question is, who will "sensible liberals" blame for it, since Ralph Nader is not running this time?

  • Andrew J. Lazarus on May 18, 2012 1:04 PM:

    We didn't have these problems back when only White people could vote.

  • boatboy_srq on May 18, 2012 4:23 PM:

    @Andrew J. Lazarus

    We didn't have these problems back when only White men could vote.


  • TCinLA on May 18, 2012 5:18 PM:

    After the election, can't we just expel the South from the Union? Remove all Federal bases, set explosives in the dams and power stations of the TVA, let them go back to living 150 years ago?

  • pjcamp on May 19, 2012 2:53 AM:

    Florida is covered by the Voting Rights Act. Where the fuck is the Justice Department?