LatinoJustice Joins Civil Rights Organizations in Opposing Gov. Rick Scott’s Plan to resume Florida Voter Purge

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 10, 2013

CONTACT: John Garcia, Director of Communications, 212-739-7513, 917-673-9095 or jgarcia@latinojustice.org.

COALITION OF CIVIL RIGHTS AND RACIAL JUSTICE ORGANIZATIONS OPPOSE GOV. RICK SCOTT’S PLAN TO RESUME FLORIDA VOTER ROLL PURGE

Governor’s Tactics May Disproportionately Impact Voters of Color, Groups Say in Policy Statement to Florida Supervisors of Elections

(Washington, DC) – Five Florida-based and national civil rights groups are opposing Gov. Rick Scott’s plan to resume the removal of alleged noncitizens from the voter rolls. In a statement sent to all 67 Florida Supervisors of Elections, the organizations – Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Florida New Majority, Florida Immigrant Coalition and the Haitian American Grassroots Coalition – urged elections officials against using faulty data to purge voters. As past experience in Florida has shown, these types of purges are enormously inaccurate and may disparately impact voters of color.

Key among the coalition’s concerns are reports that Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is creating a list of alleged noncitizen voters by using flawed data from the Department of Homeland Security’s System Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database. The SAVE database is not a complete or accurate list of United States citizens and, therefore, not a definitive check for whether a person is a noncitizen. The use of SAVE data is also likely to unfairly and disproportionately affect naturalized citizens, the great majority of whom are voters of color.

“We all want accurate voter rolls, but using flawed data to purge registered voters is clearly wrong,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “This procedure essentially creates a two-tiered voting system in which naturalized citizens must go through a different process for their right to vote. They may be ordered to ‘show their papers’ and intimidated with letters threatening to remove them from the voter rolls. This is why we are urging Supervisors of Elections to refrain from using information from the SAVE database to remove voters.”

“We know from past experience that these types of voter purges are likely to ensnare valid citizens, and they disparately impact voters of color,” said Juan Cartagena, President and General Counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF. “Last year Florida created an erroneous list of 2,600 alleged non-citizens by using the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database. More than 82 percent of these voters were people of color, and 61 percent were Latinos.”

“Noncitizen voting is an extremely rare offense that carries very harsh penalties, including up to five years in prison and deportation,” said Florida New Majority Executive Director Gihan Perera. “In Florida, since 2000, there have been only eight reported allegations of noncitizens voting. Compared to the number of Florida’s registered voters – 11.8 million – that is .00015 percent, or 1.5 one-thousandth of a percent.”

“Getting the necessary documentation to prove one's citizenship can be expensive and hard to come by,” said Jean-Robert Lafortune, Chairman of the Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition. “A new naturalization certificate is $680, and a replacement copy is $345. The current processing time to receive a new certificate or a replacement from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is up to five months.”

“Voting is a right. That right should not have to be earned and re-earned, over and over again,” said Florida Immigrant Coalition Executive Director Maria Rodriguez. “Moreover, a citizen is a citizen, and all should have equal access to their right to vote.”

The joint policy statement can be seen here.

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