By Yaël Ossowski | Florida Watchdog
TAMPA — Florida officials have been given the green light from the federal government to remove non-citizen voters from its voter registration rolls.
After letters, threats and lawsuits culminating over several months, the Department of Homeland Security said it will give state elections officials access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database, or SAVE, a comprehensive list of resident aliens who are living and working in the United States.
Alejandro Mayorkas, director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, confirmed the agency’s committment in a July 9 letter to to Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
“I am very pleased that the federal government has committed to giving us the access necessary to identify noncitizens on the voter rolls and make sure these ineligible voters cannot cast a ballot,” said Detzner in a statement released Saturday.
“Florida voters are counting on their state and federal governments to cooperate in a way that ensures elections are fair, beginning with ensuring the voter rolls are current and accurate.”
Previous examinations conducted by the state Division of Elections in May estimated that nearly 200,000 voters on active voting lists are either ineligible or deceased. That led election officials to petion county election supervisors to begin removing those people from the rolls.
Reacting to concerns of a vote “purge,” the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state, filing petitions on June 12 in the Northern District Court in Tallahassee and on June 8 in the Middle District in Tampa.
In the Justice Department‘s lawsuit against the Florida Department of State, U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle, of the Northern District Court, ruled on June 27 that the state is well within its right to remove ineligible and deceased voters.
The battle to provide legitimate voter rolls has been a key issue for Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has faced the concerns of his detractors who describe his efforts as “scrubbing” and “purging” opposition and minority voters, a claim he has vehemently denied.
“We’ve already confirmed that non-citizens have voted in past elections here in Florida,” Scott said Saturday in a statement.
“Now that we have the cooperation of the Department of Homeland Security, our state can use the most accurate citizenship database in the nation to protect the integrity of Florida’s election process.”
A Quinnipaic University poll released on June 20 found that 60 percent of respondents approved of the governor’s efforts to combat voter fraud in the state.
The poll was conducted with 1,697 registered voters and had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.