TALLAHASSEE – Florida has decided to release the names of over 180,000 registered voters, believed to be mostly Latino, who are suspected non-citizens and therefore would not be allowed to vote in the upcoming state and presidential elections.
"The set of 180,000 names is a public record," wrote Chris Cate, a spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, in an e-mail. "We are in the process of redacting it now so that it can be provided to everyone who has made a public records request."
Detzner originally decided not to make the names public but after talking with Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office - he has changed his mind.
“The delay is just one more example of the state’s complete lack of transparency,” Diana Kasdan, counsel for the Democracy Project at the Brennan Center, told The Miami Herald. “This list should have been released months ago.”
The list is at the center of Republican Governor Rick Scott's controversial, so-called voter purge, his effort to push non-citizens from the state's voter rolls. Democrats and advocacy groups say the voter purge is an act of voter suppression and discriminatory. Advocacy groups say 50 percent of those listed have Latino surnames.
The state has reaffirmed, however, that no one will be blocked from voting before the state primary on August 14, even if they're not a U.S. citizen, because the list will not be sent to to Florida county election supervisors who have the right to purge non-citizens from the voter rolls.
Florida has sued the federal government in an effort to gain access to the federal Department of Homeland Security database, known as SAVE, to help the state seek more information on voters' citizenship status before they send a more refined list to election supervisors.
The collection of names was compiled by the state comparing driver's license records with voter registration records to create a list of 182,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens.
The Secretary of State's office sent 2,700 names from the database of non-citizens to county elections supervisors in April, according to the Herald. Supervisors said that many of the names had either belonged to citizens or to people who can't be contacted.
Scott and Detzner continue to defend their efforts to purge non-citizens from the rolls. The Department of Justice lost their lawsuit in late June when U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that there was nothing in federal voting laws that prevent the state from identifying non-U.S. citizens even if it comes less than 90 days before the Aug. 14 election.
Polls show Scott's voter purge is backed by a majority of Florida voters, though Latino voters are more closely split.
In a June Quinnipiac University survey of 1,697 Florida voters, 49 percent of Hispanic voters backed the governor's efforts, and 42 percent were opposed.
Overall, 60 percent of all surveyed said they are in favor and 35 percent are opposed.
Republicans back the effort by a margin of 90 percent to 8 percent who oppose. Democrats are opposed by a 60 percent to 33 percent margin, while independents support the governor on the issue by 59 percent to 37 percent.
Sen. Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, said he supports the voter purge effort.
"How can you argue against a state identifying people who are not rightfully on the voter rolls?" Rubio reportedly said at a Bloomberg event.
The Department of Justice lost a lawsuit against the state of Florida, arguing the purge was too close to a federal election.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said that there was nothing in federal voting laws that prevent the state from identifying non-U.S. citizens even if it comes less than 90 days before the Aug. 14 election.