June 8th, 2012
10:04 AM ET
6 years ago

Despite feds' concerns, Florida secretary of state says voter roll 'purge' going forward

(CNN) – Florida's Republican-appointed secretary of state said Friday his state's effort to remove non-U.S. citizens from voter rolls is a legal and necessary step to prevent fraud, and that critics who label the move a political tactic are misinformed.

"If there's a non-citizen eligible to vote and votes in this election, they'll neutralize and delete someone else's vote that's eligible to vote," Ken Detzner said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien"

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He continued, "I can tell you, I hear from people every day that call my office and explain that they do not want their vote eliminated by a non-citizen who is registered to vote. That's the mission that I'm undertaking and I want to make sure this fall that everyone who is eligible to vote will vote and that votes will be counted here in Florida."

Detzner's remarks on CNN cap off a contentious week for the Florida secretary of state, who is engaged in a heated debate with the United States Department of Justice over the legality of Florida's decision to remove names from voter rolls. The move comes five months ahead of a presidential election in which swing state Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, will play an influential role.

Detzner, appointed to his post by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, defended his stance Friday, saying no eligible voter would be denied the right to cast a ballot.

"No individual who is eligible to vote has been removed from the voter list," Detzner said on CNN. "Everyone has been notified by the supervisors of election is given due process to notify that supervisor as to their citizenship or not. I'm confident that our due process will make sure that everyone is treated fairly going forward and no eligible citizens will be eliminated from the voter rolls."

Florida's move to remove non-eligible voters from its voter lists began after Scott, the state's Republican governor, pressed Florida's elections officials to identify non-U.S. citizens who had registered to vote illegally. Using information from the state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the state identified more than 100,000 names of non-eligible voters that could potentially be on the lists illegally.

Critics say the plan unfairly targets minorities, and paint it as an attempt to dissuade typically Democratic voters from going to the polls. Ron Brownstein, a CNN political analyst, said Florida's move did have a political component.

"There is inherently a lot of politics in this," Brownstein said. "You have a series of Republican governors, Republican state legislators producing tough new laws making it tough to register voters and scrub the voter rolls. This against a backdrop of reality that in 2008 Barack Obama is polling around 80% of minority voters and almost all of these initiatives would have a disproportionate effect on minority voters."

Detzner said voters whose eligibility is questioned at the polls had legal recourse.

"There is a due process and I want to remind everyone should they show up at the poll and they claim that they're citizens, they can vote a provisional ballot at the poll which can be validated after the election," Detzner said.

The Department of Justice wrote in a letter last week that Florida failed to properly notify the federal government of their decision, writing the unilateral move violated provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Five counties in Florida are covered by the Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation that gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington.

Florida's three largest counties - Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach - all said earlier this week they had either stopped the removal of names from their voter lists or had never begun the process. The legal counsel for Florida's county election officials recommended halting the purge of names until the state responded to the federal government. That office has yet to issue an updated recommendation.

In its letter, the Justice Department also said the move appeared to violate a provision that prevents states from removing voters from rolls less than 90 days ahead of an election. Florida will hold a primary vote on August 14.

In the interview Friday, Detzner took issue with the Justice Department's legal assessment, claiming the federal provision against removing names from rolls only applies to people who were once eligible to vote but, through death or criminal conviction, had become ineligible.

"The law does not exclude us from eliminating non-citizens from the list," Detzner said. "We do at the present time during this 90-day period we do eliminate individuals that are felons, people that are mentally incompetent and those that are deceased. It seems no logical question that those individuals might have more rights, or the individuals that are non-citizens, would have more rights than someone who is a felon."

Detzner also accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of violating federal law by preventing his state from accessing a citizenship database.

"I have spoken to many supervisors and they, like I, are waiting for the Department of Homeland Security to give us access to the SAVE database which they are legally required to do so that we can better and more accurately determine citizenship here in Florida," Detzner said. "I'm waiting for a return letter, and response from [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano who I wrote to a week ago requesting an opportunity to meet and determine how we can get access to that voter record."

CNN en EspaƱol's Adriana Hauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Jill

    These actions are a double edged sword and it is naive for Republicans to think their actions can't cut both ways.

    June 8, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |

    Press charges now DOJ! If they want to break the law, hold them accountable. This is 2000 all over again.

    June 8, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  3. Obvious Guy

    @A True Centrist
    What is the issue here...isn't the guy just doing his job by only allowing eligible people to vote?

    Actually, this is NOT Rick Scott's job. He has no say in who has the right to vote and who doesn't The COUNTY ELECTION OFFICIALS are the one's who get to decide and the ones in Palm Beach already stopped because they saw that Rick Scott's information was wrong because what he is doing is illegal, besides unAmerican!

    June 8, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  4. The Real Tom Paine

    Maybe they should see if Rubio's parents are legal.

    June 8, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  5. A not-so-stupid former republican

    Just another example of republican voter suppression. The republicans are reaching deeply into their bag of dirty tricks to try to regain power so they complete their trashing of the United States economy and reward the rich.

    June 8, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  6. Madrep

    What is so wrong with making sure a person is eligible to vote? We should be doing that in every state. afetr all, true citizens pay the taxes and wages for the politicians.

    June 8, 2012 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  7. paulcat

    Let's vote to put the secretary of state in jail. Who wants to buy my "yes" vote. George W., Jeb Bush, Carl Rove, anybody? Votes were sold in wisconsin.

    June 8, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  8. Thomas

    Beat Obama at any cost !

    Kathleen Harris sets a deadline for the recount .

    June 8, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  9. HenryMiller

    "Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington."

    Washington needs to be told, forcefully if necessary, to mind its own damned business.

    And every state should be purging the illegals, the dead voters, all the Mickey Mouses, and everyone else who should be on the list.

    June 8, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  10. Delusional Democrats Whining Crying Blaming, My Dream Has Come True

    Mikey – Nationwide, there are a few dozen cases of actual voter fraud over the past decade, barely enough to throw the election for dog catcher in Newark if they all happened at once.
    The real problem is that nobody knows because we haven't been allowed to require IDs be presented before voting. Without that, just how are people supposed to be caught? Virtually impossible unless somebody rats them out or if a poll worker happened to know a certain person had died. But what we DO know is that this country now has 10-20 MILLION illegal aliens in this country and they have permeated EVERY aspect of our society. Why would that not include our election processes, especially when no ID is required.

    ALL patriotic Americans would be repulsed by the effort.
    Actually ALL patriotic Americans should DEMAND that they be require dto show an ID before voting and expect that of all others to ensure US CITIZENS are deciding our elections, many of which are now decided by very slime margins where even a few illegals voting could affect the outcome.

    People refusing to protect our voting rights and elections are truly un-American. And that now appears to be our own incompetent Attorney General Eric Holder.

    June 8, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  11. Lynda/Minnesota


    This will hurt all Democrat candidates...I like it.

    So did Thaddeus Cotter. Well, until it affected him directly, forcing him out of his own campaign. He is a Republican. Of course, his signatures weren't from actual voters, unlike what is happening in Florida where REAL Americans are being taken off the voter roles for "suspicious" reasons amounting to one's race, one's political registration, and well ... status of one's last name. I am not sure if GOPers have included one's gender in the purges yet. No doubt that is next on their "to-do" list.

    I'm all for keeping those ineligible off the registration rolls. I suggest it is up to the states to PROVE a citizen is ineligible PRIOR to being purged. I am definitely not in favor of the "purge first ask, questions later" approach Florida is trying to enact.

    June 8, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  12. Mikey

    @Delusional – "protecting the voting rights of LEGAL CITIZENS to vote"

    If they purge legal citizens from the roles, aren't they doing just the opposite? What about requiring ID that in some segments of our population, many legal citizens don't have. Doesn't that do the opposite, too?

    I would be for ID if we issued free national voter ID cards to all adult U.S. citizens who are eligible to vote. There would also have to be a program to assist many elderly and poor obtain necessary documents, such as birth certificates. Are you willing to pay a few more dollars in taxes to do that?

    June 8, 2012 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. b

    now the states have to ask the doj to do anything
    hey doj can i take a crap now
    florida is doing what all states need to do, 53,000 dead people taken off the roll

    June 8, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. Paul

    HenryMiller, I did not hear you say Washington should mind its own buisness when the Supreme Court stopped the recount and allowed W to become President even though he had 500,000 less votes. Why don't they purge all votes and not just black and hispanic voters?

    June 8, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  15. food for thought

    What obama policies haven't worked? Congress haven't passed any for jobs, for debt control and or to help recovery. America don't be stupid and believe lies. Obama has tried, but congress (even some Dems) haven't done their job. Congress should lose their jobs in Nov. Congress should be made up of doctors(healthcare), lawyers, educators(education reform) and everyday workers(fair work laws and wages), those are the people who know best what the rest of the country needs. Crime is up throughout the country (not just major cities), small towns have more empty businesses than open ones and education in public schools is terrible. This is not on the president! and for all that think it is, need to take a 9th grade civics class!

    June 8, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  16. Rupert Murdoch = Josef Goebbels

    When do the voting results get reported – on voting night, or after the 100,000 "provisional ballots" are counted a month later. And supposing Romney "wins" on voting night, but Obama wins by 99,500 votes after the provisional ballots are counted, does the Supreme Court say, "Romney wins!", or what?

    June 8, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  17. Ronincalif

    The Dems need the votes of felons, dead people and illegals. So Florida please stop doing what is right and let these people vote. (sarcasm)

    June 8, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  18. Rupert Murdoch = Josef Goebbels

    Florida should emulate Arizona. Simply put up hidden STOP signs in the voting place parking lot. Then have the police tackle anyone who looks black, hispanic, or too democrat. Arrest them for runing the STOP sign, not wearing their seat belt, and looking suspiciously uncitizenlike, (and resisting arrest without violence). Voting will be long over by the time they are released from jail.
    If Florida would emulate New York City, they could also be ordered to empty their pockets, so they could be arrested for pot possesion, too. And I hope that isn't a Big Gulp, or you're under arrest for that, too.

    June 8, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  19. tee27

    it is pretty clear that they are trying to steal the election if you listen to this guy , I think all the voters in FL need to stand up and vote against the Republicans in 2012 because of this.

    June 8, 2012 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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