Latino groups call on Tallahassee Republicans to stop voter purge

01/28/14 Janelle Irwin
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Tags: Janet Cruz, Florida for All, Voter Purge, voter supression, Rick Scott, Ken Detzner, Craig Latimer


Florida Rep. Janet Cruz joins The group Florida for All in opposing voter purge efforts they say disproportionately affect minorities.

photo by Janelle Irwin

Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner are poised to begin efforts to remove potentially ineligible voters from the rolls this year. But critics of the purge say it’s just an attempt to disenfranchise minority communities that often vote Democratic. State Representative Janet Cruz is calling on the state and local supervisors of election to reject the push.

“This is really an attempt to serve up political red meat to the Tea Party.”

In 2012 the state identified 180,000 people on the voter rolls who may not be eligible based on driver’s license data. That number was later whittled down to 200 and according to Politifact only 85 were eventually removed from the rolls.

“Eight out of ten of the people listed on the voter purge files were minorities. Six out of those ten were Hispanic.”

Cruz spoke from a podium in front of the County Center in downtown Tampa Tuesday where the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections office is located. She wore around her neck a travel pouch.

“What I have in my pouch here is my passport and this is what I use when I travel, but now, today, I feel like I have to use my passport to prove that I have the right to vote if I go here to the Supervisor’s of Elections office. So, I’m here today to ask, when will the Governor stop asking us to show our papers?”

Governor Scott and Secretary of State Detzner have consistently defended what they call routine maintenance of the voter rolls. This time around, Detzner will use a nationwide database called SAVE which stands for Systemic Alien Verification of Entitlements. It’s meant to be an improvement on the 2012 effort where infrequently updated driving records resulted in eligible voters being incorrectly placed purge lists. Detzner did not respond to an interview request. Representative Cruz says there hasn’t been any information offered by the Florida Department of State to show that the SAVE database will be any different.

“Our supervisor of elections, puts people, twice a week they go down to where citizens are being sworn in and twice a week they register voters to vote. But, he has no information on how soon that registration and that information about them becoming citizens will get to the SAVE database. So, what is the message here? We’re spending time registering voters, but we can’t tell them for sure if they won’t be put on a purge list.”

Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer verified that during a phone interview. But the state won’t just be using SAVE, it will also use some of the same methods from the previous purge.

“In 2012, they actually designated on the sheet that they had checked this information through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle and ICE which is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. But, their claim was that they didn’t have access to this SAVE database so their information turned out to be flawed.”

Latimer was the first supervisor in the state to stop the 2012 purge in his district. And while he said his office has to follow the law, he will be very careful with any future purge lists to ensure the information provided is verifiable.

“We do a tremendous amount of list maintenance with addresses and verifications constantly. We also – the state already has a system in place that they alert us and furnish us with a plethora of paperwork to be able to verify to people that have lost constitutional rights and have not had their rights restored normally through some type of felony conviction.”

Newly appointed Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez Cantera supports moving forward with another voter purge. The former Miami State Representative had also supported a controversial anti-immigration law in Arizona critics claim give police legal authority to racially profile people who look like they might be undocumented. Edwin Enciso is a Latino community advocate.

“What’s especially troubling to me now is that we have these same bad ideas are being repackaged with the name Lopez Cantera in front of them. It’s very cynical to think that simply because there’s a Latino last name that Latinos are going to now just accept these policies.”

Enciso added the efforts by Tallahassee Republicans won’t stop eligible minorities from voting.

“They should all know that Latino community organizers are not going to stop registering people to vote. We’re not going to stop advocating for our community rights and that we’re not going to be sold by this repackaging of bad ideas; or, as Representative Cruz said, we’re not happy about being asked for our papers again and again.”

Enciso is with the group Florida for All, which originally claimed the state spent more than $100,000 on the 2012 voter purge. Politifact ruled the claim “mostly false” and the group has since amended its figure to $52,000. The state musts pay $0.50 for every name it searches in the SAVE database. According to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections, no names have been submitted to a purge list yet.

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