Two Hillsborough Republicans aren't concerned about Florida's voter purge

05/30/12 Janelle Irwin
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Governor Rick Scott instructed his appointed Secretary of State to remove people who may not be U.S. citizens from the voter rolls despite criticism that it unfairly targets Democrats and minorities. Two Republican state lawmakers supported that effort at a Brandon Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday.

Several people on the list of more than 2500 the state is claiming are ineligible to vote have already proved the claim was wrong. Outgoing Republican State Representative Rich Glorioso doesn’t see a problem with that.

“If we have one person on the voter rolls that’s ineligible to vote and they vote, they disenfranchise all, every voter out there and the disenfranchise the integrity of the system.”

And Glorioso said people can challenge claims that they are not legal citizens either of Florida or the U.S.

“I know that they’ve had some problems with the illegals that they identified and their trying to clean that up. But the system is pretty clean because if I get a letter that says we’ve got indication that you’re not legally a citizen to be able to vote, then I’ve got 30 days to go back to the supervisor of elections office and say here’s my passport, here’s my birth certificate, obviously it’s a mistake.”

A Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database is being used to identify who is and is not a U.S. citizen. Opponents argue that the system isn’t up to date and many people could have since become naturalized citizens. But Glorioso contends that some of those individuals could have brought the problem on themselves.

“They said are you a citizen, would you like to register to vote and they did. And then when they got called out for jury duty from that roll they said I’m not a citizen, I can’t be on a jury. That’s how they identified a lot of these people.”

And Florida Senator Ronda Storms, also a Republican, denies allegations from opponents that the measure is an election year attempt to eliminate Democratic and Independent voters.

“If they’re voting fraudulently, I don’t know that that’s staked out by a party or by an independent. So, it shouldn’t intimidate anybody. If you know you’re legally entitled to vote all you have to do is produce the documents that show you’re legally entitled to vote.”

Among the many arguments that removing people from the voter rolls without sound reason to do so disenfranchises voters is that Republicans aren’t also addressing possible absentee voter fraud. In that case voters send their ballots in by mail with no way to verify who actually cast the ballot. But Storms said those ballots are carefully reviewed and then reviewed even further if someone suspects fraud.

“I saw the challenges to each individual absentee. That was done. And incidentally – or maybe not incidentally - challengers were primarily the democrats that were challenging military votes.”

Outrage over the push to disqualify so many voters is made worse by last year’s changes to Florida’s voting laws. Under its provisions early voting days were reduced, some voters who have moved may only be able to cast provisional ballots and groups who register voters have tougher regulations and penalties. Opponents argue all those things negatively impact Democrats more than Republicans. Storms said that it is not asking too much for voters to provide proof that they live in a certain area or other qualifying criteria.

“That has happened to me. They changed my voting location multiple times and I’ve had to prove – 24 years ago when we moved we had to produce our address and show that we are where we’re supposed to be.”

Storms is vacating her seat in the Senate to run for the $155,000 per year Hillsborough County property appraiser job after hearing about incumbent property appraiser Rob Turner’s alleged sexual harassment. Turner admitted to sharing pornographic pictures with the human resources director in his office. Storms said she would not have made the decision if that hadn’t happened – or if Turner had resigned. But she was already unhappy with the way Turner handled disputes from homeowners over the assessed value of their homes.

“Her original appraisal was appraised inappropriately not by this property appraiser. So, it would have been low hanging fruit for this property appraiser to say, ‘you know what, you’re absolutely right’. In the early stages, Ms. Cookie won her position and won her appeals. But this property appraiser kept pounding on her instead of giving her the adjustment she was legally entitled to. He appealed every single technicality, every technicality and has ground this little five foot woman – it’s been very frustrating to me.”

But the sexual harassment scandal put a bad taste in her mouth that she just couldn’t ignore.

“Meanwhile you’re behaving like this with your human resources director. But here’s this poor little taxpayer where there’s no reason why you would take this hard position with her.”

Turner claims the interaction with his staff member never occurred during work hours. But Storms said that’s a weak defense.

“Whether or not you did it in the off hours. Ask any working woman, does it matter to you if your boss is texting you on his personal phone after hours asking – sending pictures of his body parts and asking for pictures of your breasts? Does it matter to you that it’s happening after hours? Does that give you some sort of shelter? No. There’s not a woman – 99% of the women that are sane working women would say that that’s ok because he did it after hours on his own time.”

Republican State Representative Rachel Burgin has announced she will run for Storms’ seat in the Senate. Rich Glorioso, who is being termed out of his seat in the House, had previously announced a bid for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. But with Storms’ vacant Senate seat in his district, Wednesday Glorioso said he is considering running for that instead. He expects to make that announcement Thursday.

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