EXCLUSIVE: Florida Secretary of State Admits Identifying “Potential Non-citizens” using “Obsolete” Data

Of course, you wouldn’t know that reading the completely misleading headline in the “AP NewsBreak” story rushed to publication by the Washington Post and numerous other outlets.

The real headline should be, “Florida Secretary of State Admits Identifying “Potential Noncitizens with ‘Outdated’ Data.”

The pending agreement with the Department of Homeland Security is hardly a “victory” for the GOP, as the Washington Post’s headline screams.

It is true that the Department of Homeland Security reached a pending agreement with the Florida Department of State to allow the Division of Elections to access the federal SAVE database — Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements — so as to more accurately identify “potential noncitizens” who might be incorrectly registered to vote in Florida. (Lord knows, the Florida Secretary of State needs help in its endeavors, as I’ve recently documented elsewhere, extensively.

It is important to disassemble the AP’s misleading story regarding the Florida Secretary of State’s “victory.”

First, the pending agreement with Homeland Security prohibits the state of Florida from using only the name and birth date of registered voters when requesting SAVE data to verify whether registered voters are noncitizens. Second, the Division of Elections may only access the SAVE database if it provides a “unique identifier” — such as an “alien number” or a certificate number on a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship — for those who it suspects may be ineligible to be registered to vote.  But the Secretary of State does not (rightly) collect such information on voter registration forms, and the driver’s license records that the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has provided to the Division of Elections are often inaccurate or outdated, leading to numerous false-positives when they are matched with the voter rolls.

In other words, if Florida Supervisors of Elections end up purging voters from the rolls using inaccurate or outdated information provided to them by the Division of Elections, they risk disenfranchising citizens, stripping them of their right to vote.

So, it is quite questionable how newly acquired access to the federal SAVE database will help ferret out “potential noncitizens,” as most citizens on the Florida voter rolls do not have a “unique identifier” that is included in the federal database.

What is not questionable from the pending agreement is that the Florida Secretary of State has admitted that it has been identifying “potential noncitizens” using ‘outdated’ information.

As Secretary of State Ken Detzner stated in a Letter to Supervisors Regarding SAVE sent to the 67 Supervisors of Elections on Saturday, July 14:

The process to identify potential non-citizens will include a carefully calibrated matching process between the Florida Voter Registration System and the driver’s license records of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles before any records are verified through SAVE. The existing file of potentially ineligible voters which was created months ago, is now outdated and will not be used as the basis for further action by the Department of State. It should be considered obsolete. (Emphasis in red, mine.)

One would hope that those individuals who are citizens and legally registered, and who were either incorrectly identified as “potential noncitizens” by the Florida Secretary of State, or worse, wrongly purged from the rolls by the Supervisors of Elections in early June because of the use of ‘outdated” or “obsolete” data, will be reinstated.

Clearly, any matching process between datafiles that are created for vastly different purposes may lead to wrongful ‘convictions,’ depriving individuals of the civil rights.

It remains to be seen whether, and how, the Florida Division of Elections will conduct a matching process with the federal SAVE database.  For the sake of the rights of all Floridians, let’s hope it is done more carefully and more transparently than the state’s feeble effort earlier this year.