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Justice Department orders Florida to halt ineligible voter purge

A snapshot of our silly election system.

Last year, Governor Rick Scott of Florida initiated a program to remove ineligible voters from the rolls by checking Department of Motor Vehicles data against the voter registration database for certain anomalies.   Last month, after working down the initial list of suspect voter identification data, they started sending notices to people who might be ineligible to vote, asking them to prove their citizenship.

The program proved controversial, to say the least.   Democrats howled about sinister attempts to suppress the minority vote.   Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) called it “a hurried voter purge? and compared it to the “stolen? presidential election of 2000.

“Florida has a shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information and inaccurate lists right before the presidential elections,? thundered Penda Hair of a voting-rights group called The Advancement Project.   “This year’s deeply flawed process disproportionately targets Latino voters and is discriminatory, unfair, and antithetical to the values of our nation.?

Over at the MSNBC lunatic asylum, host Martin Bashir asked, “Why is the Sunshine State in the midst of a purge that even Joseph Stalin would admire??   This is the same network that repeatedly tried to implicate the entire Republican presidential field in the death of Trayvon Martin.

On Thursday, the civil-rights division of the Justice Department sent a letter to the Florida Department of State, commanding them to halt the process.   Part of Florida is still covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so the Justice Department can assert authority over changes to voting procedures.

Florida says it may contest the federal order, with Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate saying “the bottom line is, we are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot.?

There has been a lot of sloppy reporting on this story, as befits an agenda-driven media working alongside a Democrat Party that grows very nervous when serious attempts are made to control voter fraud.   For one thing, the size of this “purge? is laughably miniscule.   It is commonly misreported as covering 180,000 or 200,000 voters, but that is false.

The list of irregularities in drivers’ license data kicked back from the Department of Motor Vehicles was 182,000, but that list was worked over for the better part of a year and whittled down to a mere 2,600 names before the first letters of notification were sent out.   Only 259 people in Broward County were sent notices, according to the Broward Supervisor of Elections, and only 50 of them had ever cast a ballot before.   Broward County has 1.1 million registered voters.

Overall, less than .03 percent (three one-hundredths of one percent) of Florida voters were affected.   It is fair enough to assert that disenfranchising any number of legitimate voters is wrong, but that argument never seems to cut any ice with those who are perfectly comfortable allowing illegal voters to disenfranchise legal voters.   That’s what voter fraud does.   Every illegitimate vote cancels out one legitimate vote.   Democrats fly into towering fits of rage when anyone makes a serious attempt to determine how many illegitimate voters there are, then insist nobody should do anything about vote fraud because the scale of the problem is unknown.

Likewise, the charge that attempts to control illegal voting disproportionately target immigrants are a perfectly circular non-argument that chews upon its own tail, since they are the population most likely to exhibit the kind of irregularities that flagged Florida’s database search.   To say that it’s not permissible to send a large portion of voter registration challenges to Miami-Dade county is to say that we’re not allowed to check for ineligible voters in the place where they are most likely to be found.   Are we supposed to search for voter fraud only in the places where it’s least likely to occur?

This argument has legal ramifications, however, because the Voting Rights Act of 1965 empowers the federal government to shoot down changes to voter registration that can be shown to disproportionately affect minorities, even if there is zero evidence the procedure in question has malign intent, or the imposition upon affected voters is very minor.   That’s the reasoning Attorney General Eric Holder has invoked when attacking common-sense voter ID laws in several states.   It’s a major component of the argument that the high-tech United States of the Information Age is supposed to put up with fraud-riddled horse-and-buggy elections forever.

A more straightforward legal complaint against Florida’s voter identification check is that federal law prohibits removing voters from the rolls, even if they are illegitimate, within 90 days of an election, and Florida has a primary coming up on August 14.   However, while sloppy reporting implies that Governor Scott just popped out of bed and ordered a voter purge a few weeks ago, the process actually took the better part of a year, because the initial list of flagged voter registrations was reduced by 98.5 percent before notices were sent out.   Furthermore, these notices give the recipient 30 days to respond with proof of eligibility.   Are we supposed to accept that voter eligibility can never be tested, because such tests are hard work that take a long time, and are therefore likely to conclude too close to one of our frequent primary or general elections?

Incidentally, according to the Florida Department of State website, voters whose eligibility is challenged can still vote with provisional ballots, and have two days after the election to present further documentation.   They also offer an online tool for instantly checking your eligibility to vote, using only first name, last name, and date of birth.   Are legitimate voters who take their civic responsibilities seriously supposed to put up with unlimited voter fraud because we can’t inconvenience lazy people in the slightest?

There are fair criticisms to be made of the way Florida went about conducting its eligibility test.   The conduct of any program should be open to reasoned criticism.  However, even some of the more rational points scored against Florida’s voter identification challenge bear further scrutiny.

Some complained that written notices can get lost or ignored in the mail, although that seems like it could be extended into a broad argument that all laws are illegal, because the government has no reliable method of contacting its citizens.   Nobody crusading against Florida’s voter check seems prepared to argue that ObamaCare is illegal because its notifications could get lost in the mail, or lie unread upon a hapless citizen’s kitchen counter.   Still, given the tiny size of the group affected, I have to wonder why Florida authorities didn’t try making follow-up calls by phone.   It’s not that hard to call 2600 people.

The marquee case of “outrageous abuse? in Florida concerns World War II hero Bill Internicola, who received a Bronze Star for fighting in the Battle of the Bulge.   He was born in Brooklyn, registered to vote in Florida in 1991, and has voted numerous times since then.   He pronounced himself “flabbergasted? by the challenge to his eligibility, and appeared at a press conference with Alcee Hastings and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Boca Raton), where he was used as a political prop.   Deutch cried that Internicola was “the face of Gov. Scott’s request to purge our voter rolls.?

Left almost completely unreported was the reason Internicola popped up in that initial DMV scan: he lied about his date of birth on his drivers’ license.   According to the Miami Herald:

Internicola admitted to one discrepancy in records. He says he was born in 1921, though he said his drivers’ license indicates 1919. The reason: in his youth he wanted to start driving early so “I bent the truth a little bit.?

He was swiftly able to resolve the challenge to his eligibility by showing his Army discharge papers.   Arguably, county authorities, who were responsible for final checks of voter data and sending out the challenge notices, could have researched him a bit more carefully, but Internicola’s distress is hardly the most callous example of state, local, or federal government indifference that leaps to mind.

The Florida controversy highlights the ridiculously clunky and primitive bureaucracy we’re expected to put up with.   Even as we enjoy the fantastically advanced data processing capabilities of our Information Age private sector, we put up with a government that can’t get out of the 1960s.

Florida asked for help from the Department of Homeland Security, which has an immigration database that is much more accurate, and more frequently updated, than state records.   These requests have been stymied at every step of the process, from the production of the first list of anomalous DMV data to this past Thursday, when Florida Secretary of State Kent Detzner wrote to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano: “I hope you will understand the importance of making sure the vote of an eligible voter is not diminished by the vote of ineligible voter and provide my department the access it needs.?

The request was once again denied.   As reported by the Associated Press, “A Department of Homeland Security official said Thursday that the federal agency is aware of Florida’s request but that there a number of legal and operational challenges to granting the state access.?

Really?   The federal government can’t help Florida check a list of 2,600 names to ensure they’re eleigible to vote in the upcoming presidential election, because of “legal and operational challenges??   For that matter, validating the original list of 182,000 names, or even millions of names, should have been the work of hours, days at most, with federal assistance and modern data processing technology.

There’s your outrage.   Every legitimate voter should be furious when told to tolerate unknown, unknowable levels of voter fraud because our titanic government can’t handle the sort of task credit card companies breeze through, every single day.

Written By

John Hayward began his blogging career as a guest writer at Hot Air under the pen name "Doctor Zero," producing a collection of essays entitled Doctor Zero: Year One. He is a great admirer of free-market thinkers such as Arthur Laffer, Milton Friedman, and Thomas Sowell. He writes both political and cultural commentary, including book and movie reviews. An avid fan of horror and fantasy fiction, he has produced an e-book collection of short horror stories entitled Persistent Dread. John is a former staff writer for Human Events. He is a regular guest on the Rusty Humphries radio show, and has appeared on numerous other local and national radio programs, including G. Gordon Liddy, BattleLine, and Dennis Miller.

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