State highway officials will begin vetting a controversial list of 180,000 potential non-citizens who are registered to vote within the next few weeks, The Palm Beach Post has learned.
The news comes as a surprise to elections supervisors who, at their summer meeting this week, pleaded with state Division of Elections leaders to more thoroughly scrub the records before sending them on to the local officials for further action.
The Department of State last month gave elections supervisors a list of more than 2,600 voters – many of them in Miami-Dade County – potentially ineligible to vote because they may not be legal citizens. The list was generated by matching voter registration files with driver’s license data.
But the information in the list included some voters who were born in the U.S. and others who are naturalized citizens. Secretary of State Ken Detzner and his staff blamed the problematic list on the Department of Homeland Security. The federal officials have refused to give Detzner’s office access to a federal database with more up-to-date immigration and citizenship information.
But the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has access to the SAVE – “Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements” – database, prompting county supervisors on Tuesday and Wednesday to ask the state elections staff to get DHSMV to run the records through SAVE. Division of Elections chief Gisela Salas and DOS lawyer Maria Matthews told the supervisors their agency is working with DHSMV to resolve the issue but were uncertain about whether it could be done.
On Thursday, DHSMV Director of Motorist Services Boyd Walden told The Palm Beach Post that his agency will begin running the list of 180,000 potential non-citizens through the SAVE database within the next few weeks.
“We are gearing up to get it done. That’s the plan,” Walden said.
DOS spokesman Chris Cate confirmed that the vetting would begin soon, and the state department would pick up the tab. DOS sent a memo to supervisors late Thursday telling them of the new plan, Cate said. Read the memo after the jump.
The SAVE database includes records on people who have gone through the immigration process, including those who have applied for green cards or become citizens.
“It’s disappointing DHS will not give us direct access to their database but we are very grateful for our state partners at highway safety who understand the importance of having accurate voter rolls,” Cate said. “We have an obligation to improve the accuracy of Florida’s voter rolls. So we have offered to pay the cost it takes for Highway Safety to update their records and ultimately the status of potential non-citizens on Florida’s voter rolls.”
State elections officials do not have an estimate of many non-citizens will be confirmed on the voter rolls, Cate said.
“We just know it’s important for us to find out what that number is,” he said.
Supervisors were relieved at the news.
Palm Beach County Elections Supervisor Susan Bucher pressed officials from both agencies on Tuesday and Wednesday to have DHSMV scrub the list.
“Obviously our goal is to have the most accurate data possible so we don’t disturb voters who shouldn’t be on that list,” Bucher, who has not yet notified about 115 voters in Palm Beach County that they have been flagged as potentially ineligible voters. “All of us would have appreciated some more specific information from the division of Elections. I’m hopeful that we receive that soon.”
Read Salas’ memo to supervisors below.