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Sunday, December 4, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott’s latest purge of Florida’s voter rolls is lurching forward, despite the skepticism and outright opposition of many county elections supervisors.

True to his “Tea Party” roots, Scott dreams of the days when most voters were cranky, middle-aged white people, his core constituency. Up for re-election next year, the governor fears a high voter turnout, because that would mean lots of Hispanics and African-Americans standing in line to cast their ballots.

They tend to vote Democrat, grim prospects for a Republican who isn’t exactly beloved in his own party.

Scott’s first voter purge was a debacle. Initiated ahead of the 2012 elections, the idea was to thwart President Barack Obama and other Democratic candidates by reducing the number of Hispanic, Haitian and other foreign-born voters.

Screening drivers’ licenses, the Division of Elections produced a list of about 182,000 possible non-citizens who were registered to vote. Unfortunately, the list proved worthless because the data was outdated or flat-out wrong.

County officials were left exasperated and angry.

Scott’s vote-whitening hit squad then reduced the list of targets to 2,600, and finally to a measly 198 before bagging the whole project.

To the dismay of Scott and Republican leaders, Obama carried Florida. This information wasn’t available on Election Day, or for several days afterwards, because Florida was the last state in the country to count all its votes.

Thank God it no longer mattered.

More than 8.4 million Floridians went to the polls, and long lines overwhelmed some election offices late into the night. These delays could have been avoided if Scott and the GOP-controlled Legislature had agreed in advance to increase the number of early-voting sites, as many county supervisors had requested.

But Republicans don’t like early voting because it raises the total turnout. They prefer a smaller, more manageable electorate.

The new Florida purge will use a data program from U.S. Department of Homeland Security called the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE. Election officials are supposed to compare voter rolls to a list of legal non-citizens who are qualified to receive certain benefits.

A federal court ruled that Florida was allowed to use the SAVE list, even though Homeland Security officials raised doubts about its reliability as a means of identifying non-citizens.

The point man for the Voter Purge II is once again Secretary of State Ken Detzner, a Scott appointee, who calls it “Project Integrity.” Seriously.

Detzner recently finished a short statewide tour of county elections offices, where he tried to stir up enthusiasm for the purge. There was none.