Professor: Voter purge is ‘harassment,’ ‘waste of time’

By Gene Wexler

JACKSONVILLE, FLA. —

“A waste of time and money”

That’s what University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith calls Governor Rick Scott’s so-called purging of Florida’s voter rolls of potential non-U.S. citizens.

“What the supervisors found out was that most of these folks were actually legitimate citizens who should be able to cast a ballot,” Smith said.

Smith received data he requested through Chris Cate, the spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

Of the state’s list of 2,625 “potential non-citizens,” there were 107 removed from the voter rolls between April 11 and June 7.  That’s one one-thousandth of a percent of Florida’s 11.2 million people currently registered to vote.

98.4% of the 2,625 on the list remain on the rolls.

“I think it’s fear mongering and not based in reality,” Smith said.

He calls it “harassment” because it’s a “non-issue,” and the burden of proof is placed on the citizens.

To put it in perspective, Smith notes that in the 2008 General Election some 1,774 voters in Miami-Dade County alone mailed absentee ballots to the Supervisor of Elections, but they were rejected by the county canvassing board.

Another 833 voters in Miami-Dade County who had cast provisional ballots in the 2008 presidential election never had their votes counted.

Smith agrees that non-citizens should not be allowed to vote, but “the problem is we are going to have many other issues coming up with the changes in the law with respect to how provisional ballots are cast.”

“In the past, if you changed your address and you’re within the county, you could do an address change on Election Day or do early voting and cast a regular ballot.  Now it’s going to be provisional ballots.”

Professor Smith thinks there will be “huge problems” when millions of people come to the polls in November.

He thinks we’ll see some of the “mass confusion” with the primary election coming up in August.

“That’s what the Secretary of State’s office really should be attending to. “

“Not some mythical, phantom, non-citizens who are on the rolls and don’t vote.”

When asked about Governor Scott’s motivation for defending the purge:

“I think the rhetoric of non-citizens voting is a very powerful one in the United States.  And Governor Scott has seized upon that as a way to try to tamp down any excitement about getting out the vote by folks who are naturalized citizens.”

The Secretary of State’s office originally came up with 182,000 names that it claimed were non-citizens on the voter rolls.  They haven’t released those names, only the list of 2,625 names of which 98.6% have been shown to be actual citizens with the right to vote.

“And yet the burden of proof now is on the citizens.”

“It’s harassment. The governor is wrong in terms of trying to bring attention to a non-issue.”

Daniel Smith, professor of political science at University of Florida, says Governor Scott and the Secretary of State are wasting their time on a “non-issue.”