Florida Sues Feds Over DHS Citizen Database

By: Michael Peltier and David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: Michael Peltier and David Royse, The News Service of Florida


Michael Peltier and David Royse, The News Service of Florida

Florida on Monday sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to gain access to a federal database in the state’s ongoing effort to purge ineligible voters from its statewide voter registration rolls.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed the request for declaratory judgment in an effort to force the federal agency to share citizenship information in what has been an ongoing feud between the Republican-controlled state and the Obama administration over efforts to remove those who are ineligible from the list of more than 11 million registered voters.

Detzner said the state has been trying for nearly a year to gain access to DHS’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database, which tracks citizenship and alien status.

"We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer," Detzner said in a statement. "We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current."

The suit, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, says the state has the statutory right to access the database.

"Defendants’ unwarranted delay and recalcitrance in fulfilling its statutory obligation to provide SAVE Program access has unjustifiably interfered with FDOS’s ability to fulfill its own statutory obligation to protect the integrity of elections and maintain current and accurate voter registration rolls," the complaint reads. "Immediate access is, therefore, required to ensure that the SAVE Program operates as intended…"

It is the latest turn in a dust up over recent Republican-backed efforts to review the legal status of Florida voters in preparation for the 2012 election cycle. The Department of Justice has warned Florida officials that the exercise may violate federal election laws.

Gov. Rick Scott has been pushing the effort.

"My job is to enforce the laws of Florida," Scott said on Fox News on Monday. "I'm the governor of Florida. That is what I got elected to do. I expect every other elected official to do their job and I expect they will."

The Division of Elections earlier this year sent a list of about 2,600 names of potentially illegal voters to local supervisors of elections, using what it has acknowledged was an imperfect list put together from a state Highway Safety database of people who had a certain degree of likelihood to be in the country illegally. Detzner said the agency would have liked to have sent a more reliable list but couldn't get access to the federal database. Local officials, he stressed, had the ultimate decision on whether to purge those voters who didn't respond to a letter questioning their status.

But in the last few days, the Division of Elections released a list of the names of 86 voters it says have been removed by local supervisors because they were non-citizens between April 11 and June 8. About half of them are listed as having voted.

That, backers of the purge effort say, proves the need for the move, because it shows that some non-citizens have indeed registered and cast votes.

Opponents of the purge have criticized it as too broad-brushed, and note that 86 voters would only be about one-third of one percent of all those on the list sent to supervisors.

It's also not clear how many of the 86 voters were among the 2,600 names that have been sent to local supervisors of elections for possible removal.

Local press reports have said some of the voters who have been removed in recent weeks were taken off voter rolls after they voluntarily came forward or were sought out by local officials not using the list sent to them by the state. For example, the Palm Beach Post reported that the one purged voter from Palm Beach County who was removed, Anabel Gomez, had to have come to the local supervisors and asked to be removed, because the local supervisor, Democrat Susan Bucher, never sent out any letters seeking to remove voters identified by the state.

It is a felony for non-citizens to register to vote, and at least some of those removed are likely to face charges if local prosecutors pursue them.

Of the 86 registered voters the state said local supervisors had removed in the last couple months, more than half – 44 of them – were in Lee County. No other county came close – Miami-Dade was next with 15 – suggesting the Lee County Supervisor of Elections office was much more aggressive during the period in culling the voter rolls of ineligible voters.

While the names on the list do suggest that many of those purged are Hispanic, many of them have names that suggest they're not, from Ardalan Heshmat in Alachua County to Lyudmyla Oleynikova, Stacey Lewis and Margaret White in Lee County.

You must be logged in to post comments.

Password (case sensitive):
Remember Me:

Read Comments

Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Tony Location: Tally on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:36 PM
    I don't like Rick Scott and I don't like Barak Obama. Where are the normal people?
  • by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:56 AM
    "It's so great to know that GOD is in charge and no matter what his eyes are open and he knows the motives and the outcome of EVERYTHING!!!!" Whatever is trying to be gained from all of this will NOT WORK!!!
  • by Lisa Location: Amherst, ma. on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:53 AM
    The Federal government can use all and any help they can get. I wish both agencies can work together for the safety of all citizens in this country!!Jurisdiction should not impede , the safety of the citizens!!
  • by Emily Location: Gadsden on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:29 AM
    It has already been determined that the lists are flawed, i.e. the veterans/US citizens who were on the list. I guess they were lucky to have received their letters, so they could speak out. I agree that if even one legally authorized citizen is denied the right to vote, it is a travesty of justice.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 04:16 PM in reply to Emily
      If even one illegal alien votes it nullifies my vote
  • by anon on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:58 AM
    Don't some state agencies have access to SAVE already? I don't see what the fuss is over.
  • by TallyChick on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:55 AM
    I'm all for keeping our voting rolls clean but please tell me why the Scott administration is so bent on purging the voting rolls right before a major election? Why wasn't he pushing for this during his first year in office? I'm worried that people who are LEGALLY allowed to vote will be mistakenly taken off the voting list. Even the article stated: "Local officials, he stressed, had the ultimate decision on whether to purge those voters who didn't respond to a letter questioning their status". I'm sorry...just because someone doesn't reply to a piece of mail, doesn't mean they can/should be removed from the voting list without further investigation. I can't tell you how many times official government mail never reached me or someone I knew. I think Scott needs to tread lightly on this issue. I (suprisingly) support this intiative, but he can't rush it and be bull-headed about it. If ONE legal person is mistakenly denied the right to vote, then it's gone too far!
    • reply
      by lulczar on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:34 AM in reply to TallyChick
      you been corrupted by the liberal media and hippie college institutions. voting is for us americans only if you ain't american then get out. our soldiers died for citizens to vote not OweBummer bandwagoners looking for their hand out.
    • reply
      by Calling all Females on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:01 PM in reply to TallyChick
      Women, in this country, fought long and hard for the right and privilege to vote. Many countires, women cannot vote. ALL FEMALES: YOUR VOTE IS NOTHING IF IT IS CANCELLED BY A FRAUDULENT VOTE!!!
WCTV 1801 Halstead Blvd. Tallahassee, FL 32309
Copyright © 2002-2016 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 158551895 - wctv.tv/a?a=158551895
Gray Television, Inc.