Q: What is Florida going to do to in response to the Department of Justice’s letter?
Florida will continue to protect the rights of citizens to vote. That includes, but is not limited to, ensuring the voter rolls are accurate, and forwarding credible and reliable information whenever such information is discovered. Florida is also continuing to demand access to the federal SAVE database, which is the most accurate database available for verifying voter citizenship status.
Q: Why is the Florida Department of State removing voters from the voter registration rolls?
Florida’s Department of State isn’t removing anyone from the voter registration rolls. Only independent elections supervisors in each county may remove voters from the voter rolls. But Florida elections officials have an obligation to protect the right of eligible voters to cast a ballot, and that includes preventing non-citizens from participating in an election. County elections officials are required under state and federal law to remove ineligible voters (such as non-U.S. citizens) from the voter database whenever credible and reliable information is presented to them.
Q: Why is Florida acting now?
The process to remove non-U.S. citizens from Florida’s voter database actually began in Spring 2011. A few months later, in September 2011, Florida elections officials asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database. After waiting several months to gain access to this database, Florida initiated the process to remove ineligible voters based on the best information available to the state. The states of Colorado, Michigan, and North Carolina have also requested access to the SAVE system for a similar purpose. But the federal government has yet to grant access to the system.
Q: What is the process Florida is using to identify non-citizen voters?
Florida is currently waiting for the federal government to grant access to the SAVE database in order to verify that non-citizens will be removed from the voter rolls ahead of the 2012 election. Without access to this data, or some new evidence from other sources (such as court records or other official documents) that can identify non-citizens, the federal government is preventing Florida from identifying and removing non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.
When a state motor vehicle and driver database containing citizenship information was matched with a list of registered voters, Florida identified more than 182,000 potential non-citizens listed as registered voters. Without access to the federal government’s SAVE database, Florida elections officials refined the data using state information and sent an initial list of 2,600 potential non-citizens to county election supervisors for further review and action.
County elections supervisors have a legal obligation to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls whenever presented with credible and reliable evidence, however, each county supervisor has the independent authority to determine how best to proceed with the information presented to them. County supervisors have acted responsibly. To date, there are zero reported cases of anyone being wrongly removed from the system.
Q: What about the World War II veteran I keep hearing about?
We are aware of no U.S. citizens who have been removed from the voter rolls. The World War II veteran in question pointed out a discrepancy in the motor vehicle database and that error was corrected. No further action was taken and at no time was he ever removed from the voting system. The process worked exactly as it was designed to work.
Q: Have any non-U.S. citizens been removed from the system?
Yes. Multiple people in multiple counties throughout Florida have already been identified and removed as a result of being non-citizens. Of the initial list of 2,600 names being reviewed, the majority have not responded to inquiries from county officials. But the state cannot verify their eligibility until the federal government grants access to the SAVE database or until more evidence is presented that they are non-citizens.
Q: What occurs when county election supervisors are provided names of potential non-citizens?
Potentially ineligible voters are given due process, as is statutorily required. When a supervisor of elections receives information from DOS that a registered voter is a potential non-citizen, the supervisor must begin the statutory notice process. Potential non-citizens will be provided an explanation of the basis for their potential ineligibility and an opportunity to contact the supervisor to dispute the determination of potential ineligibility.
Q: What if someone is erroneously removed from the rolls?
We are aware of no U.S. citizens who have been removed from the voter rolls as a result of the state’s effort to identify non-citizens. However, if this ever did occur, an erroneously removed person could contact their county elections supervisor and be retroactively reinstated and eligible to vote in any upcoming elections. Additionally, if someone realized they had been wrongly removed while at the polling place, they could vote a provisional ballot which would absolutely count once the person informed their county elections official of their citizenship status.
But again, it is important to note that no eligible voters have reported being wrongly removed from the rolls as a result of the state’s effort to identify non-citizens.
Q: How many non-U.S. citizens will remain on the voting rolls during the 2012 election cycle?
It’s impossible to say for sure. Until the federal government grants DOS access to the SAVE database and helps ensure ineligible voters cannot cast a ballot, DOS will be unable to know what percentage of the 182,000 potential non-citizens are truly ineligible to vote.
Q: Is the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) correct in saying Florida is violating the law?
No. Florida is well within its legal rights to remove never-eligible non-citizens from the voter rolls. Further, it appears that the federal government, specifically the Department of Homeland Security, may be in violation of the law by blocking Colorado, Florida, Michigan and North Carolina from accessing the SAVE database, which is explicitly permitted in federal law.