Last week Florida federal district court judge Robert Hinkle ruled against the Justice Department’s motion for a temporary injunction against Florida’s voter purge. The ruling was widely portrayed as a victory for the state, by Florida Governor Rick Scott and many in the media.
Yet the ruling itself was less of an endorsement for Florida and more of a rebuke. “There were major flaws in the program,” Hinkle wrote. “The [Florida secretary of state] compiled the list in a manner certain to include a large number of citizens…The program was likely to have a discriminatory impact on new citizens.” Hinkle ruled in favor of the state “primarily because the Secretary has abandoned the program.”
In case you’ve forgotten, Florida’s voter purge was riddled with errors (“98.4% of the 2,625 people identified by the Florida SOS as ‘potential noncitizens’ remain on the rolls because the Supervisors of Elections found insufficient evidence that they were ineligible to be registered voters,” found University of Florida political science professor Daniel Smith), racially biased (minorities comprised 80 percent of the list but only 30 percent of Florida’s population) and blatantly partisan (Democrats outnumbered Republicans by two to one). That’s why Florida’s supervisors of elections overwhelmingly refused to implement the purge—which remains their position following Judge Hinkle’s ruling.
“The supervisors are where we were before—we’ve stopped the purge,” Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, told me. “The list was much too flawed for the elections supervisors to move forward with in the same format and without backup documentation.”
“We’re not going to see any further activity in most of the counties in the state’s direction,” adds Ion Sancho, supervisor of elections in Tallahassee’s Leon County. “It’s just too close to the election at this point.”
Two heavily Republican counties, Collier and Lee, are the exceptions, comprising 65 percent of the 107 potentially ineligible voters purged in Florida from early April to early June. Collier County, which includes Naples, removed 26 alleged “non-citizens” from the rolls based on the state’s list—eight of whom did not respond to contact attempts from the county to determine whether they were or were not citizens. “The worst-case scenario is that we’ve wrongfully removed somebody from the rolls,” says Tim Durham, the county’s deputy elections supervisor. If that’s the case, legitimate voters wrongly branded as “non-citizens” would have to cast a provisional ballot, which may or may not be counted (Durham says two-thirds of provisional ballots are counted in Collier County).