U.S. to Let Florida Use Its Data for Voter Check
Michael Schwirtz, NY Times - The federal government has granted Florida election officials access to a database of noncitizen residents for use in Republican-backed efforts to remove people who are not American citizens from voter registration rolls.
The decision by the Department of Homeland Security, which came after efforts by the Obama administration to block access, was issued in a letter to Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and made public on Saturday. Mr. Scott, along with the state’s Republicans, had been pushing for months to gain access to the database, which is maintained by the department, arguing that it would allow for a more accurate review of voter lists.
The decision could give a boost to what has become a broad push by Republicans in several states to prevent voter fraud by expunging what they say are thousands of ineligible noncitizens from voter lists.
Opponents of the Republican effort, who recognize that people who are not American citizens have no right to vote, have argued that the federal database, the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, was never intended to be used for purging voter lists. They have also charged that the purge could violate voters’ rights laws and be used to discriminate against minorities. With so little time left before elections, they argue, anyone wrongfully purged could be barred from voting anyway.
In June, Florida election officials were forced to halt the search for illegally registered voters amid fears that the lists of suspected noncitizens were deemed outdated and inaccurate.
But a few weeks later, a federal judge struck down a Justice Department request to halt the voter review indefinitely. Mr. Scott has insisted that the review was directed solely at preventing ineligible voters from participating in coming elections, including a primary set for Aug. 14. In a statement on Saturday, Mr. Scott hailed the decision to grant access to the database as a “step in the right direction.”