The Department of Homeland Security is stonewalling Florida’s effort to clean up its voting rolls 12 years after George W. Bush won the state’s electoral votes by a razor-thin margin.
The state asked DHS in September to check the citizenship of 180,000 registered people who have Florida driver licenses but may not be citizens, Chris Cate, communications director for the Florida Department of State, told The Daily Caller.
Florida’s stalled request comes amid efforts by Democratic legislators and advocates to stop popular and court-approved voter-identification laws. The Democrats argue that the laws and related procedures are intended to keep black and Latino voters from casting ballots.
Obama’s Department of Justice has also sued to stop several states’ voter-identification laws, while Democrats protest voting-reform efforts in a number of other states.
The administration’s stalling has been challenged by Florida Republican Rep. Jeff Miller.
“Both the law and department policy requires [the DHS] to provide access to the [Systematic Alienation Verification for Entitlements] SAVE program within a reasonable time. … Please advise me on the status of the department’s decision on the state’s request immediately,” Miller wrote in a May 9 letter sent to DHS chief Janet Napolitano.
“We’d like to give them a chance to respond. … A couple of weeks should be enough,” a staff member for Miller, who is chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, told TheDC.
But Florida is pressing ahead with the voter checks.
“We’re still in the early stages of going through the 180,000 names, so we don’t know the extent to which there will be non-citizens [still] on the voter rolls” in November, Cate told TheDC.
So far, his office has identified 2,600 people who may not be citizens and has begun the process of asking them to verify their citizenship.
State officials are also reviewing the voting rolls to find additional people who may not be citizens and who are included on the list of 180,000 possible non-citizens that have been identified by Florida’s driving license records.
“When you have an ineligible voter on the rolls, you run the risk of diminishing someone else’s vote,” Cate said.
“We take pride in the elections we conduct, and we want to improve the integrity of our elections to the full extent we can, [so] we’re very sensitive to any scenario that might diminish the vote of Floridians,” he added.
In 2004, Bush won the state — and the presidency — after a very contentious vote count that prompted much criticism of Florida’s election process.
But Bush’s extremely narrow lead of a few hundred votes was validated by a subsequent count conducted by establishment media outlets, including The New York Times. Roughly six million ballots were cast in the state.
Under Florida’s rules, the state can strike people off the rolls if they don’t confirm their citizenship after a multi-stage public process.
But the process would be greatly improved and accelerated if DHS would confirm the citizenship of people on its voter rolls, Cate said.
“There is not a single state or federal database of all U.S. citizens that would allow us to check the [would-be voters’] citizenship status … [and] we have been told the best database that exists is the DHS ‘SAVE’ database,” he said.
The SAVE database holds a list of immigrants who have been granted citizenship.
“Removing an ineligible voter from the rolls is something we have a responsibility to do every year,” Cate told TheDC.
“This is not a political issue for us. This is about our mission to conduct fair and accurate elections.”