TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — The state’s top election official said Tuesday that he expects Florida’s efforts to purge non-citizens from voter registration rolls to soon resume and be completed before the Nov. 6 general election.
Florida is on the verge of getting access to an immigration database from the federal Department of Homeland Security, Secretary of State Ken Detzner said shortly after polls opened for the state’s primary election.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott began the push to rid Florida’s voting rolls of illegally registered non-citizens, but Homeland Security initially declined to help. Federal officials, however, said they’d make the database available after a federal judge refused to halt the purge, but both sides are still working on the details of a final agreement.
“We are making some progress, just recently, the last few days in actually getting access to the database,” Detzner said.
A federal grand jury, meanwhile, on Monday indicted Canadian citizen Josef Sever on charges of illegally registering and voting in Broward County. Sever also is charged with making false statements in connection with buying firearms and impersonating a U.S. citizen to renew a concealed weapons permit.
His lawyer, an assistant federal public defender, did not immediately return a telephone message seeking comment Tuesday. Sever was arrested on July 31. He remains in custody in Miami, where he’s also under an immigration hold.
The Department of Justice is continuing to pursue a lawsuit challenging the purge. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle in Tallahassee refused to block it pending resolution of the case.
A Hispanic civic organization and two naturalized citizens backed by the American Civil Liberties Union are challenging the purge in a separate lawsuit filed in Tampa. They allege it’s an attempt to remove legitimate minority voters from the rolls.
Florida already has compiled a list of more than 180,000 potential non-citizen voters, but Detzner said it will not be used once the purge resumes.
“Lists, as you know, like anybody’s Christmas card list gets old, and addresses changes, names change and the status of individuals change,” Detzner said.
He said officials will again compare voter registration lists against a state driver license database, which includes citizenship information, to come up with a new list of potentially illegal voters. It then will be compared with the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, database, which contains more up to date information.
The results of those comparisons will be forwarded to county supervisors of elections to confirm whether those listed have improperly registered. Most supervisors discontinued the initial purge after more than 500 voters on a narrower list of 2,600 names were confirmed to be citizens and only 86 non-citizens were removed.