The issue of ineligible voters in Florida has reemerged.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Wednesday the launch of “Project Integrity,” a tour promoting open discussions among election supervisors about maintaing eligible voter rolls.
The goal is to collaborate with supervisors, Detzner said.
“Through transparency and the statutory due process protection afforded to every voter,” he said, “we can ensure the continued integrity of our voter rolls while protecting the voting rights of eligible voters from those who may cast an illegal vote.”
The tour will stop in five locations during early October.
After hearing of the tour midweek, several supervisors of elections from North Florida agreed with Detzner that changes are necessary.
“I know that we all have the same goal: And that’s to have the best Florida registration database that we can possibly have while still preserving the rights of all Florida voters eligible to vote,” said Pam Carpenter, Alachua County supervisor of elections.
In years past, Carpenter said, that hasn’t been happening.
Carpenter is referring to the attempted 2012 voter removal that Republican Gov. Rick Scott initiated.
The state first provided counties with a list of 180,000 voters suspected of not being citizens — numbers derived by comparing a list of driver’s licenses with voter registration data.
There were major inconsistencies. Another list was constructed, but because several supervisors of elections questioned the accuracy of the information, many threw out the lists.
“It had not been vetted as well as it could have been,” Carpenter said.
In Bradford County, 12 names were returned with suspicions, said supervisor of elections Larry Vaughan. Only one was actually a non-citizen.
“I think we did receive verification that there was no citizenship, and we took care of it,” Vaughan said. “But that’s a very troubling statistic — that only one out of 12 turned out to be a person who should have been targeted.”
It’s difficult for supervisors to decide who should be removed from the voter roll when state information has a track record of being inconsistent, he said. The consequences of an incorrect decision can be awful and led critics to call Florida’s approach a “purge.”
“To take away someone’s voting rights when we didn’t have the right to is an incredibly egregious thing to do,” Vaughan said. “We want to avoid that at all costs.”
Vaughan’s hope is through collaboration, the supervisors and Detzner will be able to produce credible methods of obtaining accurate voter information. He’s optimistic.
And he’s hesitant.
“Any time you can get accurate information that would allow you to maintain the integrity of your voter rolls, that’s something you should be interested in, but we’ve got to have verification that the information is accurate,” Vaughan said.
Marion County supervisor of elections Wesley Wilcox understands the challenge state officials face.
“They’re dealing with almost 12 million registered voters,” he said. “Any mistake they make gets amplified.”
He wants to make the state’s voter rolls “as accurate as possible without going on a witch hunt.” He also welcomes Detzner’s invitation to collaborate because in years past, supervisors have been missing from the process.
“It seems like each of the lists that have been published in the past were published solely from the Department of State without any input from supervisors,” Wilcox said. “I commend the inclusion of supervisors of elections. There’s no one who knows the jurisdiction’s voters better.”
Meeting times (Eastern Standard Time unless otherwise noted):
Oct. 3, Thursday, 1 p.m. (CST) – Bay County Area Supervisor Roundtable 830 W. 11th St., Panama City
Oct. 4, Friday, 11 a.m. – Duval County Area Supervisor Roundtable 105 E. Monroe St., Jacksonville
Oct. 7, Monday, 1 p.m. – Orange County Area Supervisor Roundtable 119 W. Kaley St., Orlando
Oct. 8, Tuesday, 10 a.m. – Sarasota County Area Supervisor Roundtable 101 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota
Oct. 9, Wednesday, 10:30 a.m. – Broward County Area Supervisor Roundtable 115 S. Andrews Ave., Room 102, Fort Lauderdale