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Ken Detzner’

State Department issues elections recommendations

Monday, February 4th, 2013 by Dara Kam

A possibly longer early voting period, more kinds of early voting sites and limiting the length of constitutional questions placed on the ballot by the Legislature are among Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s recommendations to lawmakers released today.

Detzner’s suggestions, based on conversations with supervisors of elections in what he called “under-performing” counties including Palm Beach, dovetail with what the supervisors are requesting.

The supervisors for years have asked lawmakers to expand the types of early voting sites now restricted to elections offices, county libraries and city halls. Detzner’s recommendations would add other government-operated facilities including civic centers, county commission buildings, courthouses, fairgrounds and stadiums.

Detzner recommends limiting the number of words for legislators’ proposed constitutional amendments. Lawmakers in 2000 exempted themselves from the 15-word title and 75-word ballot summary imposed on citizens’ initiatives. Detzner also recommends repealing the statute that allows lawmakers to place the full text of the constitutional amendment, including stricken or underlined text, on the ballot.

Detzner also made several secondary recommendations:
_ Lengthen the deadline for mailing absentee ballots to voters, now 10 days before the election, and allow canvassing boards to start processing absentee ballots earlier than 15 days before the election now in state law.
_ Restrict “in-person” absentee voting at the counter. Elections supervisors complained that they were inundated by in-person absentee voters, including on Election Day, and blamed President Obama’s campaign for using the in-person absentee voting as a way around early voting restrictions.
“‘In-person absentee’ voting, as currently implemented, has created a de facto early voting extension that can interfere with Election Day preparations and delay election results until after Election Day,” Detzner wrote in his report.
_ Allow chief judges to appoint alternates to canvassing commissions, now comprised of a county judge, the chairman of the county board of commissioners and the elections supervisor.
_ Impose fines for underperforming elections vendors. St. Lucie County’s elections results were delayed because memory cards failed, and Palm Beach County elections staff were forced to hand-copy nearly 20,000 flawed ballots because of the printer’s errors.
_ Require elections supervisors to upload results earlier. St. Lucie County could not meet the deadline for certification of elections results because, in part, staff uploaded results later due to the memory card failures.

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U.S. Sen. Boxer files ‘LINE’ Act to cap voting waits at one hour

Thursday, December 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A four hour wait to vote may be OK for Florida Gov. Rick Scott, but it’s unacceptable to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who introduced legislation targeting long lines in Florida, Virginia and Ohio.

Boxer’s proposed “LINE,” or Lines Interfere with National Elections, Act would set national standards of a maximum waiting time of one hour at any polling place in federal elections. And the bill would require states, including Florida, where voters waited in long lines to implement plans to fix the problems before the next federal election.

Boxer filed her bill the day after Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner told a state House committee that Scott set a four-hour wait as “underperforming” for county elections offices.

Boxer’s proposal would require the U.S. Attorney General to issue new national standards by Jan. 1, 2014 regarding the minimum number of voting machines, election workers, and other election resources necessary to hold federal elections, according to a press release issued by her office.

The legislation is intended “to deal directly with the problem of dysfunction at polling places around the country,” including Florida, Virginia and Ohio, the press release states.

Boxer also is pressuring U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to “take immediate steps to address the long lines experienced around the country.” Voters in some areas in Florida waited up to eight hours to cast their ballots during early voting and on Election Day.

“I will be working tirelessly to enact the LINE Act into law, but in the meantime I urge you to ensure that no citizen, regardless of ethnicity or income level, is effectively denied the right to vote by unreasonable and unnecessary lines,” Boxer wrote in a letter to Holder yesterday.

Justice Department demand voter purge data from 9 counties, including Palm Beach, in lawsuit against Scott

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher was among nine county elections supervisors subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of its lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over his non-U.S. citizen voter purge.

The demand for documents and other information is part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, scheduled to drag on past the Nov. 6 general election and into next year. The subpoenas went out to supervisors in Bay, Broward, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and Pinellas counties.

It’s unclear why Bucher, who she said received the subpoena on July 31, was included in the dragnet. She never did anything with the list of 115 Palm Beach County voters flagged as potential non-citizens by Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office in March.

But the Justice Department lawyers demanded all documents or information related to the voter purge, dreamed up by Scott and launched by Detzner this spring. Detzner’s office sent out a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizens to the state’s 67 supervisors of elections, instructing the local officials to send letters to the flagged voters and ask them to prove they are citizens. Bucher and many other supervisors balked after some elections officials found the lists included the names of voters who had become naturalized citizens or were even born in the U.S. In one highly publicized case, a Broward County World War II Bronze Medal hero was identified as potentially being ineligible to vote.

Bucher is sending a letter to the DOJ telling them she didn’t participate in the voter purge and is handing over a copy of the disk containing the list of 115 Palm Beach County voters provided to her by Detzner, she said. The DOJ asked the supervisors to give them the information by Aug. 15, the day after Florida’s primary on Tuesday.

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DOJ joins lawsuit against Florida over voter purge

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal three-judge panel to stop Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial voter purge as Florida is working with another of President Obama’s administration to revamp the process.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner had asked the Tampa-based judges to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that he stopped the flawed voter purge process in April. But on Friday, the two civil rights group that filed the lawsuit amended their complaint, making Detzner’s request moot. The state department is expected to revise its request for a dismissal.

The Department of Justice on Friday joined the two civil rights groups in the lawsuit, filing a “statement of interest” and asking the judges to refuse to dismiss the case filed by the ACLU of Florida and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in federal court in Tampa on behalf of two Hispanic voters and Mi Familia Vota.

The DOJ is fighting its own lawsuit against Scott over the controversial voter purge in a separate federal case in Tallahassee. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle handed Scott a victory late last month in that case, refusing to grant an emergency injunction halting the purge – already on hold – and noting that the scrubbing of the voter rolls, although problematic, did not appear to break the law. Hinkle, however, let the Tallahassee case proceed.

Detzner’s office technically halted the voter purge after an initial list of potential non-citizens flagged by matching driver license and voting records proved problematic. The list of about 2,600 potential non-citizens distributed to county supervisors wrongfully flagged voters who were naturalized citizens and even some U.S.-born voters.

After months of getting nowhere, Detzner finally got the Department of Homeland Security to grant access to the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database, and is again moving forward with the purge.

But the state hasn’t received the federal “preclearance” required for voting changes in five counties – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – covered under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, the DOJ and the groups challenging the purge argued. The preclearance is required for some jurisdictions that have a history of discrimination against minorities.

“The State of Florida has adopted a new database matching program that results in registered voters being removed from the voter rolls,” Deputy Attorney General Eric Perez wrote in the statement of interest. “This new practice has not been submitted for administrative or judicial preclearance pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and despite a lack of preclearance, the change has been implemented in Florida’s covered counties subject to Section 5.”

The state needs to get preclearance for the five covered counties for the new database matching process before the purge can move forward, Perez wrote.

Federal judge hands Gov. Scott voter purge victory

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A federal judge denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for an emergency restraining order to halt Florida’s non-citizen voter purge and said the controversial scrub does not violate federal law.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle heard arguments this morning from the Justice Department and Michael Carvin, a Washington lawyer representing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration. Carvin was one of the lead lawyers for President George W. Bush in the protracted 2000 recount legal wrangle.

Hinkle denied the request for the emergency stop to the program in part because he said the state was no longer doing it.

But he also rejected Justice Department attorney John Bert Russ’s argument that the non-citizen voter purge violates federal law.

He also chided both administrations, saying the “federal government and the state government ought to be working together” to ensure honest elections.

Wednesday’s hearing is the first of multiple lawsuits over the voter purge. Scott is suing the Department of Homeland Security over access to a federal database the state contends would allow them to create a less error-prone list than the Secretary of State Ken Detzner distributed to county supervisors in April.

While he denied the emergency restraining order, Judge Hinkle allowed the lawsuit to move forward.

And he put Detzner on notice that he would be available for future emergency hearings if the state “ramps up” the voter purge without making sure the list was less error-riddled.

Scott insists that no citizens have been wrongly removed from the voting rolls as a result of the purge but that about 100 non-citizens were found to have been registered to vote.

Many of the 2,600 flagged individuals on the list given out in April turned out to be naturalized citizens and therefore eligible to vote, Hinkle noted.

“Questioning someone’s citizenship unnecessarily is not as trivial as the state would have it,” Hinkle scolded. “But leaving an ineligible voter on the list is not a solution. People need to know we are running an honest election.”

Hispanic voter battle: Moveon.org launches TV ad telling Romney to condemn the purge

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Moveon.org is launching a television ad in Florida urging Latino voters to tell presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to “condemn the racist voter purge” now being defended by Gov. Rick Scott in federal court.

The TV ad, scheduled to air in Tallahassee next week, is part of a national effort to drum up support from Hispanic voters for President Obama in the November election.

Yesterday, a plane towing a banner reading “ROMNEY: CONDENA LA PURGA DE VOTANTES LATINOS” (Translation: “Romney: Condemn the Latino voter purge”) flew over Orlando where Romney addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference.

Hispanics comprise the majority of a list of 2,700 potential non-citizen voters sent to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in April. The controversial voter purge is the subject of three federal lawsuits challenging Scott and another by Scott against the Obama administration for failing to grant access to a federal database. The flagged voters turned out to include many were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran who said he was born in Brooklyn.

Dueling lawsuits in voter purge: DOJ to sue Gov. Rick Scott admin

Monday, June 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Department of Justice will sue Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge, the federal agency told Scott’s administration the same day the governor filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to “immediately cease this unlawful conduct,” blaming Scott’s administration for the problematic purge.

“Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court.”

Perez’s 0611 DOJTODETZNERfive-page letter came in response to a missive from Detzner last week accusing President Obama’s administration of conspiring to keep Florida from cleansing its voter rolls. Perez flatly denied it.

“In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE Program is simply wrong,” he wrote.

The SAVE database won’t work by simply matching the names and dates of birth of potential non-citizens. That’s what the Florida Department of State did with driver license and voter registration records to create a list of more than 180,000 voter flagged as potentially inelgible to cast their ballots. Many of those on the error-riddled list turned out to be naturalized citizens, and others were born in the U.S.

Scott used the purge to pump up tea party supporters at a rally in Tallahassee yesterday.

Scott has repeatedly blamed the problematic list on DHS, which failed to give Florida permission to access the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” program that has more complete immigration data.

But Perez blamed Scott’s administration for the scrub flub.

“By your own admission, Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE Program can verify naturalized and derived United States citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers, and where necessary, the underlying documentation. But Florida has failed to either to provide the necessary information to DHS, or to confirm that the necessary information would be available for verification purposes under the SAVE Program,” Perez wrote. “As a result, the significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation.”

Scott pumps up tea partiers, digs in over voter purge

Sunday, June 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott pumped up a conservative crowd at a Tea Party Express event in the Capitol city Sunday afternoon, urging the activists to help him gain support for a controversial non-citizen voter purge now in federal court.

Wearing khakis, a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his signature custom-made cowboy boots, Scott defended the purge and enlisted their aid getting President Obama’s administration to cooperate by granting access to a federal immigration database.

“Okay so the latest is who should get to vote in our state and in our country. People that are citizens of our country. It’s very simple, right? Who comes up with the idea that you get to vote if you’re not a citizen?” Scott asked near the end of a 15-minute speech at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum.

Scott explained that his administration unsuccessfully tried to get Homeland Security to give Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database the states are supposed to be allowed to use to check voter IDs, among other things.

“That database is obligated to be given to us and it says it’s for voter registration. Go look at it. It’s the SAVE database from Homeland Security. It’s our right to get that data. For whatever reason, they decided not to give it to us. Can you imagine why?” Scott said. “So we have to, you have to, demand that Homeland Security does their job. I’m going to continue to stand up for your right. I do not want one person’s vote in this state diluted by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote.”

Scott’s office on Friday released a document showing that 86 individuals were removed from the voter rolls since Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizen voters to elections supervisors in April. The error-riddled list turned out to include the names of Floridians who were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran. The state department contends that 46 of those people – about one-third of one percent – voted in previous elections. But a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times review found that only six of those had cast ballots.

The purge has created a national firestorm and partisan split.

Scott remained steadfastly committed to the purge on Sunday.

“Here’s what we know. We know that people are on our voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. We know that people have voted that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. How many races should be decided by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote. Not one. Not one. Not one person should have the right to vote that doesn’t have the right to vote. That is wrong and it is a crime,” he said.

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder’s office last month told Scott to stop the scrub, saying it appeared to violate two federal laws. The federal “motor voter” law prohibits states from doing purges 90 days before an election. That deadline passed May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. And Friday the ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration over the purge, asking a federal court to put a stop to it until the Justice Department weighs in.

But a defiant Scott instructed the tea partiers to contact “everybody that’s involved” and demand that the state get access to SAVE, adding that he’s not backing down. The ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration on Friday, asking a federal court to stop the purge until the Justice Department weighs in.

“It’s not going to be easy. I need your support. You need to go out there and let everybody know that this is wrong.”

Scott said later he is considering suing the Obama administration over its refusal to grant permission to use the database.

“I’ll decide over the next few days what we’re going to do. But I’m going to defend our right to vote. I care about every individual’s right to vote. I don’t want it diluted by somebody else’s vote,” he told reporters after the event.

During his speech, Scott repeatedly urged the tea partiers to put their grassroots activism to use over the purge.

“Your job is to make sure those individuals do their job. Call them. Do what you’ve done to me. I think last week I got 5,000 e-mails. E-mail me. Call. And call everybody else…I’m going to do my job. I’m going to make sure that happens,” he said.

In her introduction of Scott, Tea Party Express co-founder Amy Kremer also riled up the anti-Obama administration crowd over the purge, calling it part of an effort by Democrats to “steal” elections.

“If the Democrats cannot win it fair and square, they will steal it. They have done it before. We cannot let them take this away from us,” she said.

The battle over the voter vetting is on hold in Florida as the state’s 67 elections supervisors have said they will not continue the process until the issue is straightened out between Scott and the Obama administration or the courts. The elections supervisors are the only ones who have the ability to actually remove voters from the rolls.

Scott said he’s confident the supervisors will do the right thing.

“They got elected. They know their job. They have an obligation. My job is to enforce the law that I’m responsible for. They have an obligation to enforce their laws. They’re not supposed to allow anybody to vote that doesn’t have a right to vote,” he said Sunday. “They’re going to do the right thing. They’re doing the right thing. Not one person has been kicked off a voter roll that has a right to vote. But we do know people have voted. We do know people are on the voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote.”

Scott, whose popularity among Florida voters remains lackluster, told reporters he appeared at the event to help get voters primed for the November elections.

“Just to energize the vote. Get people out. Let people know this election’s important. Every election’s important. You always hear that this election’s the most important one. But elections are important. They have an impact. If you want to change the direction of the state, the country, you’ve got to show up,” he said.

Scott administration says 86 non-citizens removed from voting rolls since purge started

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Eighty-six voters who are likely not U.S. citizens – including one Palm Beach County woman – have been removed from the rolls as a result of Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial non-citizen purge now being challenged in federal court, according to Department of State records released today.

And more than half of those appear to have voted, the records showed.

The 86 voters make up about one-third of one percent of the 2,600 voters flagged as potentially ineligible by Scott’s administration.

But it’s unclear how many of those voters removed since the problematic purge started in April were actually included in the list distributed to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Greenacres voter Anabilil Gomez was removed from the voting rolls on May 3, the records show. But she was not on Detzner’s list. And Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said it is unknown yet whether Gomez or others were on the master list of 182,000 from which the April batch was culled and which officials have not yet released to the public.

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said Gomez likely came to the elections office and asked to be removed. Bucher never sent letters to the suspect voters notifying them that they needed to prove their citizenship as Detzner’s office ordered her and the 66 other county supervisors to do.

“It looks like she came to the counter and told us because we sent her a voter card in December 11. The only way we would have that information is if she was telling us because we never sent the letters out,” Bucher said, adding that others came to her office “trying to give us copies of their documents” to ensure they would not be removed from the rolls.

It is a felony for ineligible people, including non-citizens, to register or vote in Florida.

Bucher said her office sent Gomez a voter registration card in December but the woman had not voted in any election.

But state department officials said 46 others on the list of 86 have voted, including about a dozen whose voting records pre-date 2006. More than half of the voters on the list were registered in Lee county.

Scott’s staff trumpeted the revelation as a vindication of the purge process, blasted by Democrats and civil rights organizations.

“As you already know, but I insist you point out, not a single US citizen has been removed from the voter rolls as a result of the state’s inquiry. But we now know with absolute certainty that a growing number of non-US citizens aren’t just illegally registered to vote here in Florida, they are also casting ballots and influencing election outcomes,” Scott spokesman Brian Burgess wrote in an e-mail. “The State of Florida has a legal obligation to do what it can to protect the votes of its citizens, and that includes preventing never-eligible, non-citizens from casting ballots and diluting the votes of eligible, law-abiding voters.”
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Civil rights groups file federal lawsuit over Florida voter purge

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge the Justice Department considers a violation of two federal elections laws.

The ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges asked a three-judge panel in Tampa to stop Secretary of State Ken Detzner from continuing the scrub until the Justice Department decides whether it is permissible.

The purge, the brainchild of Scott, has sparked a national outcry and partisan divide over voting in the presidential battleground of Florida. And it’s created a tug-of-war between President Obama’s and Scott’s administrations.

Detzner in April sent elections supervisors lists of more than 2,600 potentially ineligible voters flagged by matching driver license records with the state’s voter registration database. More than half of those on the list – gleaned from a master list of more than 182,000 voters – had Hispanic-sounding surnames. Elections supervisors found that many of those targeted for removal were naturalized citizens, and backed away from the scrub last week.

Federal law requires “preclearance” of voting or elections changes in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. Five counties in Florida – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – require such preclearance.

But Detzner asked for the federal go-ahead for those counties before moving ahead with the purge, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of two Hillsborough County naturalized citizens and Mi Familia Vota, argues.

Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday told a Congressional committee that the purge appears to violate federal law prohibiting states from doing voter registration database maintenance 90 days before an election. That deadline passed on May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. The Justice Department asked Detzner to stop the scrub, but Detzner this week told Holder’s office he believes President Obama’s administration is breaking the law by not giving the state access to a Department of Homeland Security database with current immigration information.

Murat Limage, a Haitian-American U.S. Citizen, and Pamela Gomez, who is a Dominican-American Hispanic U.S. Citizen, brought the suit along with Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to working with the Latino/Hispanic community to increase civic participation. Both Gomez and Limage are registered to vote in Hillsborough County.

Haitian-born Murat Limage, one of the plaintiffs in the case, registered to vote after becoming a naturalized citizen two years ago. Limage was one of the more than 2,000 voters who received written notice from local elections officials notifying him that he “may not be a U.S. citizen,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, Limage provided his U.S. passport and other citizenship documents to the Hillsborough County elections office but has not yet received confirmation that he will be allowed to vote.

“When I received the letter saying that they had information that I may not be a citizen, I was concerned that someone was taking away my citizenship,” Limage said in a press release announcing the lawsuit today. “I’m an American which means I can vote and that’s all I want to do.”

Florida officials try different tack to get access to federal database for voter purge

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State officials are trying another route to get access to the Department of Homeland Security database they believe will clear up controversy over a troubled non-citizen voter purge.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Julie Jones today asked Department of Homeland Security officials to expand the agreement her agency has with them regarding the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database.

DHSMV already has permission to use the database to check the citizenship status of Floridians applying for driver licenses or government identification cards.

Last month, state highway officials and Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that DHSMV would be using the SAVE database to do a more complete vetting of 182,000 potential non-citizens who applied for driver licenses or state IDs and are also registered to vote.

But shortly after that, lawyers at DHSMV decided an agreement they had with Homeland Security prevented that.

So Jones today asked for a change in the memorandum of agreement with the feds so she could keep her records more current. Jones made no mention of the controversial non-citizen purge process in her letter to John Roessler, chief of the SAVE program.

“Most Florida driver licenses and identification cards issued to lawful, permanent residents are valid for eight years with the only exception being residents aged eighty or older,” Jones wrote. “This department is interested in keeping our records as up-to-date as possible between regular renewal cycles. Therefore, we are interested in utilizing SAVE in order to update our records between renewal cycles and we believe a modification of the MOA is required.”

DHSMV and state elections officials have flagged more than 182,000 potential non-citizens who are also registered to vote by matching driver license records with the Florida Voter Registration System.

The non-citizen purge has created a national uproar, pitted Gov. Rick Scott’s administration against the Justice Department, set off a stand-off of sorts between state and local elections officials and exploded into a partisan finger-pointing match.

And today’s letter is the latest twist in Scott’s SAVE skirmish with Homeland Security.Yesterday, the governor’s administration accused DHS officials of breaking the law by ignoring requests to use the database for nine months. Detzner and Scott have repeatedly blamed the problematic purge process on President Obama’s administration. They contend that being able to vet the names of potential non-citizens through SAVE would give elections officials – who refuse to participate in the scrub until the issue is sorted out – more confidence in the purge list, which flagged a decorated World War II veteran and citizens who were naturalized after they applied for their driver license.

Gov. Scott administration tells Justice Department it’s wrong about voter purge, gives Monday deadline for response

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration responded to the Justice Department’s request to stop a controversial non-citizen voter purge with questions of its own and told federal officials they’re wrong that the scrub violates federal law.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, given a deadline of today to respond to the Justice Department, also gave the Justice Department until Monday to answer four questions about what the state is supposed to do to ensure its voter rolls are clean.

“It is an unfortunate but now undeniable fact that Florida’s voter rolls include individuals who are not citizens of the United States,” Detzner wrote to in a four-page letter to T. Christian Herren, chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Division. “The Florida Department of State has a solemn obligation to ensure the integrity of elections in this State. Permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process.”

Despite Detzner’s insistence that the purge is legitimate, the process will remain in limbo for now because the state’s elections supervisors will not continue the scrub until the issue is resolved by state and federal officials or a court, the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections general counsel Ron Labasky said Wednesday evening.

Last week, Herren said that the purge process is a potential violation of federal law that prohibits large-scale voter list maintenance 90 days before an election. That deadline was May 16 for the Aug. 14 primary in Florida.

Detzner blamed the problematic purge on the federal government for failing to grant the state access to a Department of Homeland Security database that has more up-to-date information regarding citizenship than the driver license records used to create a flawed list of more than 2,600 potential non-citizens who are also registered voters.

“In sum, the practice DOJ now seems to be enforcing is as follows: The Department of Homeland Security may, for months, violate federal law and deny Florida and other states access to the SAVE database so that the federal Department of Justice may then assert that the resulting delays in a state’s election-integrity efforts violate the time periods established in another federal law. This hardly seems like an approach designed to protect the integrity of elections and ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted,” Detzner wrote.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney tells feds to butt out of Florida voter purge

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney told Attorney General Eric Holder to stop meddling in Gov. Rick Scott’s effort to clean up the voter rolls in Florida, accusing Holder of “blatant politicization” of the non-citizen voter purge.

The Justice Department last week told Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner the voter purge may violate two federal laws and gave Detzner until today to respond to its request to drop the scrub.

Scott has given no indication he’s going to back down, and Detzner insists that the law requires him to ensure the voter rolls are accurate.

Rooney, a Tequesta Republican, is the latest official to wade into the political fray over the purge, which has sparked a national partisan dust-up. Democrats blame the Scott administration of trying to keep minorities and Hispanics – who dominate the list of 2,600 flagged voters given to elections officials in April – from going to the polls in November. Republicans accuse critics of the purge, including Holder, of wanting to break the law by allowing ineligible voters to cast their ballots.

Rooney’s letter mirrors a legal analysis by a former Justice Department lawyer who says Holder is wrong.

“Your actions further demonstrate that the Department of Justice, under your leadership, is more concerned with protecting the reelection prospects of the President than with upholding justice and enforcing the rule of law,” Rooney wrote in a letter sent today.

The News Service of Florida reported that Scott earlier today defended the purge, which he initiated last year, and said he hopes to have a response to the Justice Department today and defended the purge.

“Not a single eligible voter as far, as I know, has been removed from the voter rolls,” Scott said in an interview with WNDB radio in Daytona Beach, where Scott was Wednesday. “Not one. And we’re working to keep it that way.”

Scott insisted the purge is necessary to maintain voters’ confidence in the elections process.

“Their vote should not be diluted by people who don’t have the right to vote,” Scott said. “We need to be reviewing our voter rolls and making sure only those individuals who have the right to vote … are voting.”

Meanwhile, the state’s elections supervisors have dropped the voter purge because the data they received was too flawed and they want to wait until the issue is sorted out by Scott and the feds or the courts. The 67 supervisors are the only ones who can actually remove voters from the rolls.

Moveon.org targets Gov. Rick Scott over non-citizen voter purge

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Activists at Moveon.org have launched a campaign demanding that Gov. Rick Scott drop a controversial non-citizen voter purge, calling it “the worst attack on voting rights in the country.”

The e-mail to Moveon.org members asking them to contact Scott’s office comes a day before a deadline set by the Justice Department last week telling Scott’s administration that the scrub appears to violate at least two federal elections laws. The Department of Justice gave Secretary of State Ken Detzner until tomorrow to tell them whether he will comply. Detzner and Scott gave no indication that would halt the program, and elections supervisors last week said they would drop the effort until the feds and Scott – or a court – resolve the issue.

“We have just 24 hours to make sure Governor Rick Scott stops his all-out assault on Florida’s Latino voters. It’s the worst attack on voting rights in the country,” the e-mail from Moveon.org organizer Garlin Gilchrist II begins.

In April, Detzner sent Florida’s 67 elections supervisors a list of more than 2,600 “non-citizens” culled from a grand list of more than 183,000 flagged by matching the state voter registration database with driver’s license records. The supervisors found that the list was riddled with errors. U.S.-born voters – including at least one Brooklyn-born war hero – and naturalized citizens were among those flagged. Many of the names on the list are Hispanic.

“We have to stop Governor Scott today—he is embarrassing Florida and corrupting the electoral process. His reckless acts have local and national implications. So let’s ring his office’s phones off the hook until he stops his racially-targeted attack on voting rights,” Gilchrist’s message goes on. “Will you call Gov. Scott right now? Tell him, ‘Stop illegally purging Florida voters.’ Here’s where to call. Governor Rick Scott:
(850) 488-7146.”

UPDATE: Elections supervisors to quit processing voter purge list

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Elections supervisors will stop using a flawed list of potential non-citizens to scrub the voter rolls, Martin County Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis, president of the state’s elections supervisors association, said this morning.

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday told Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the voter purge process, launched by Detzner in April, appears to violate at least two federal voting laws. DOJ gave Detzner until June 6 to respond.

The Justice Department letter and the problematic list make the scrub undoable, Davis said.

“That’s why we’re just stopping. There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue,” Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, said.

Ron Labasky, the association’s general counsel, is sending a memo to the state’s 67 elections supervisors this morning telling them to stop processing the list, Davis said.

“My advice under these circumstances, and based upon the previous issues that have been presented concerning the list, as well as the fact that the Department has indicated its intent to take further actions to review its list to determine its validity, I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues were raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court,” Labasky wrote to the supervisors today.

Detzner in April sent a list of more than 2,600 flagged voters identified as potential non-citizens by matching the state’s voter registration database with driver’s license records. But the error-riddled list included the names of U.S.-born citizens – like one Brooklyn-born war hero – and others who are naturalized citizens.

At their summer meeting last month, elections supervisors of both parties raised objections to the list to state Division of Elections officials, who then said the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles would scrub the list more carefully using a Department of Homeland Security database.

But yesterday, Labasky told the supervisors that Detzner’s office said DHSMV could not run the names through the federal database. Detzner, a Republican, also yesterday again asked Homeland Security officials for access to the database.

The non-citizen purge list – the brainchild of Republican Gov. Rick Scott – has created a national firestorm over elections in crucial swing-state Florida and has sparked a partisan battle over what to do next.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry this morning announced an online campaign to get people to contact the White House and ask for access to the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, database.

Democrats say the voter purge process is part of a GOP effort to keep voters away from the polls in November.

A federal judge yesterday blocked portions of a controversial elections law passed last year, saying a 48-hour requirement for third party groups to turn in voter registration forms was “harsh and impractical.”

Justice Department tells Scott administration to quit purging voters

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Justice Department has asked Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to stop a controversial voter purge effort, saying it appears to violate federal law.

DOJ officials gave Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who launched the purge of potential non-citizens in April, until June 6 to tell them what the state’s plan is.

In April, Detzner sent Florida’s 67 elections supervisors a list of more than 2,600 “non-citizens” flagged by matching the state voter registration database with driver’s license records. The supervisors found that the list was riddled with errors. U.S.-born voters – including at least one war hero – and naturalized citizens were among those flagged. Many of the names on the list are Hispanic.

The purge set off a national firestorm over another in a long history of voting and elections scrapes in Florida. Civil rights groups and Democrats, including Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have asked Scott’s administration to abandon the effort. And, citing faulty data, some local supervisors have dropped the scrub. This week, activists started an online petition asking DOJ to intervene. Throughout it all, Detzner has insisted he will continue with the purge and yesterday again asked the Department of Homeland Security for access to its database to ensure the data is more reliable.

In yesterday’s letter, T. Christian Herren, chief of the DOJ’s voting section, said the scrub appeared to violate at least two federal laws. Five counties in Florida require federal approval before any voting or election changes are made, but Detzner did not ask the DOJ or a federal court to sign off on the purge before he initiated it.

And federal voting laws prohibit any major voter scrub 90 days before an election. That deadline was May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary.

Detzner doesn’t appear to be backing down. His spokesman Chris Cate told The News Service of Florida late yesterday the agency is reviewing the letter but “we are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot.”

UPDATE: Voting rights groups ask Scott to stop non-citizen voter purge

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of voting rights groups is asking Gov. Rick Scott to stop a statewide effort to purge thousands of potential non-citzens from the voting rolls, and U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton, also plans to ask the governor to stop the scrub.

Lawyers for the groups said in a letter to Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the voting purge is in violation of the National Voting Rights Act which prohibits systematic purging of the voter rolls 90 days prior to a general election. The purge effort falls within that 90-day prohibition because of Florida’s Aug. 14 primary.

Last month, Detzner sent a list of more than 2,600 potentially ineligible voters to the state’s 67 elections supervisors flagged as potentially ineligible by matching driver’s license and voting records. But the list was riddled with errors and included some voters who were born in the U.S. and others who had become citizens since getting their driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards. Detzner’s office then went to work on scrubbing a list of up to 180,000 flagged voters whose citizenship is in question.

Last week, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles officials said they would begin a more exhaustive vetting of the list by using a federal database with more up-to-date citizenship information. The list is exacerbating an already strained relationship between state and local elections officials as the November general election approaches.

Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, LULAC Florida, and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition asked Detzner to abandon the non-citizen initiative, prompted by Gov. Rick Scott after he took office in 2010.

Many of the voters on the list are Hispanics, which could also be a violation of the NVRA which requires state voter list maintenance programs to be uniform and non-discriminatory, lawyers for the groups said.

“The right to vote is the fundamental pillar of our democracy. Florida has a shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information and inaccurate lists right before the presidential elections,” Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, said in a press release. “This year’s deeply flawed process disproportionately targets Latino voters and is discriminatory, unfair and antithetical to the values of our nation.”

Detzner’s spokesman Chris Cate said the group is wrong.

“We just received the letter, but we’ve had it long enough to know we disagree with their interpretation of the law. Not only do we believe it’s crucial to have ineligible voters removed from the voter rolls, we’re obligated by law to do it,” Cate said in an e-mail. Detzner’s office will be sending a formal response to the coalition, Cate said, noting that the presidential primary was in January, not in August as the groups said in their letter.

Deutch also drafted a letter to Scott asking him to stop flushing the voter rolls.

“Given that this process fails to meet basic standards of accountability, and that the legal authority for automatic removal of registered voters is currently being challenged in both state and federal court, it is irresponsible to proceed so quickly and with so little room for oversight. If the goal is truly to remove ineligible individuals who were intentionally or somehow mistakenly registered to vote, then that process must move forward in a nonpartisan manner with transparency, uniformity, and great care,” Deutch’s draft letter reads. “Governor Scott, Florida has never encountered problems with mass voter fraud. Unfortunately however, our state does have a troubled history of wrongfully purging from our rolls the names of legitimate voters mistakenly deemed ineligible to vote. In both 2000 and 2004, the state pursued misguided efforts to purge the voter rolls that were shown to wrongfully include legal voters in these lists. Only when the lists and the process were made transparent could all Florida voters trust that no one would be wrongfully denied their right to vote.”

DHSMV to start vetting non-citizen voter list

Thursday, May 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

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.
(more…)

State elections chief Ken Detzner on Palm Beach County election fiasco

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Florida’s top election official, said his aides are on the ground in Palm Beach County trying to figure out what went wrong with last week’s Wellington elections in which elections supervisor Susan Bucher‘s office certifiedtwo wrong winners in local races.

Detzner, who took over the post last month, said his office is working with Bucher and Dominion Voting Systems, the vendor of the election voting and tabulation equipment Bucher blames for the erroneous results.

“We have people on the ground in Palm Beach working with the supervisor’s office to evaluate what the problem is, number one. That’s the first thing we have to do,” Detzner said Tuesday morning. “Keep in mind there were 16 municipal elections. Of those, one election appears to have had a problem…The question is to determine where the problem was. And until I hear back from my people, we’re not going to make any conclusions or any ideas of what happened until I hear back from them.”

Detzner, whose office certifies all elections hardware and software, said the Dominion technology is in use in Indian River County was recently purchased by Duval County.

The Palm Beach County mishap has sparked a political and legal upheaval in the village of Wellington and appears to be unprecedented since on overhaul in state election laws – in part in response to the county’s infamous “butterfly ballots – in the aftermath of the protracted 2000 recount.

Detzner called the Wellington incident – announced by Bucher Monday – isolated and said he remains confident in the integrity of the November presidential elections.

“Any time there is an irregularity in an election it would cause some concern. Again, I have to look back at there were 16 municipal elections. Fifteen of those went well. There was a problem with one. So I’m going to be reviewing the process, the certification, whether or not there was human error, whether or not it was a software glitch, what it is, and we’ll make corrective actions going forward,” he said. “But I’m confident if you’ve seen the primary results, the primary election results, we did not have any problems. SO I’m confident we have good systems. The supervisors are doing their job. And I’m confident that this might be a very isolated situation and we’ll take corrective action.”

Detzner said it was premature to anticipate any action against Bucher or her office.

“I wouldn’t suggest that in any way until I know what the problem is. That would be very wrong for me to do that,” he said.

Gov. Rick Scott, who appointed Detzner last month, said he was aware of the Wellington problem but not the specifics of what appeared to have gone wrong.

“I feel comfortable that our secretary of state is going to do a good job,” Scott said before this morning’s Cabinet meeting.

When asked if he was concerned about possible election problems in November, Scott said: “I worry about everything. I do worry about hurricanes and wildfires a little more than other things.”

Historic building bracketology: What’s Fla’s number one structure?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 by John Kennedy

A dozen Palm Beach County landmarks are included among 100 Florida historic buildings which online voters can help narrow to one favorite structure in a competition launched Tuesday by state officials.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, Secretary of State Ken Detzner and leaders of the American Institute of Architects-Florida chapter announced the contest to find Florida’s number one building in an event at state’s old Capitol, itself among the noteworthy 100.

Most of the Palm Beach County sites recall the area’s earliest days as a well-heeled resort. They include Delray Beach’s Colony Hotel, the Gulf Stream Golf Club, and Bethesda-by-the-sea Episcopal Church and St. Edward’s Catholic Church in the town of Palm Beach.

The Florida chaper of AIA is marking its 100th anniversary with the contest.

Online voting began Tuesday at www.aiaflatop100.org.

AIA-Florida plans a convention and tradeshow this summer in Palm Beach.

 

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