Florida Downsizes Its Voter Purge

Remember a few months ago when Rick Scott’s administration in Florida sent a list of 180,000 names to county clerks that they thought were non-citizens who had illegally voted? It was full of so many names of legitimate voters that the clerks refused to use it and Scott blamed it on not having access to a federal database. So they got that access and — surprise, surprise — the list got much smaller.

The state flagged 198 voters of questionable U.S. citizenship by comparing a state database of drivers with a federal citizenship database at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The state released a list showing 38 of them have voted in elections, at least two of them in the Aug. 14 primary. (Earlier, the state said 39 people on the list had voted.)

From 180,000 to 38 who may have voted illegally, out of more than 8 million voters. You do the math. And even with that dramatically smaller list, a lot of the names had already been removed. Most of those who are on the list likely got there by mistake, not by deliberate fraud. They are likely people with permanent resident alien status who filled out the paperwork while applying for or renewing a driver’s license, without knowing they weren’t eligible. Once again we find that, despite these absurd numbers thrown around by self-serving Republican politicians, actual in-person voter fraud is vanishingly rare.

10 comments on this post.
  1. iknklast:

    Another issue could be that sometimes people are allowed to vote in local elections (I know where I went to college in Texas they were encouraging the international students to vote). If this is true, and resident aliens are allowed to vote locally, then it could be very confusing to them that they are not allowed to vote in national elections. Perhaps our election laws could be clarified a bit, or cleaned up somewhat.

  2. Michael Heath:

    Mundanely ignorant common sense as its predominately applied here in the U.S. has most people thinking they’re reasonable when they support voter ID laws.

    While this issue certainly has partisan roots when it comes to those who develop and directly promote more stringent voter ID laws, the conclusions themselves that the average voter takes are hardly drived from the type of tribalistic or religious thinking we observe on issues like regulation, taxes, or gay marriage. So we need to appreciate supportive voters’ “common sense” reaction in spite of it being a defective conclusion. Defective precisely because of non-partisan voters who fail to consider the cost of more stringent voter ID laws; where the cost of course is the suppression of other people’s fundamental right to vote.

    In some cases this suppression is purposeful as Ed and others repeatedly note here, however this an easily leveraged issue precisely because it’s both non-partisan and lends itself to the type of ‘common sense’ thinking much of the public relies on when making conclusions.

    I find this topic illustrative of how poorly we teach people how to think critically; I think because we fail to teach critical thinking as a stand-alone topic but instead hope people learn it through osmosis. In this case that failure is not considering and asking what are the costs relative to the benefit of reducing this type of voter fraud. This issue also presents us with a teachable moment much like the McDonald’s coffe lawsuit does, which is to cautious jumping on bandwagons prior to doing even a cursory cost-benefit analysis.

  3. Michael Heath:

    Ed – If you see any reports on how Michigan voters are going to rebel in in the upcoming election against our Secretary of State putting a citizen’s check-box on the voter application forms, I’d love to see a blog post on that topic.

    I want to insure my vote is counted but also express my opposition to to the Sec. of State asking that we validate our citizenship status at the polling booth. In spite of that being a part of the voter registration process which makes such requests moot, suggesting a partisan intimidation tactic is the real motivation.

    To non-Michiganders, this notation was on our voting app. forms in the last primary. Not only was there no effective notice such would be on there, this notation failed to pass legislatively yet this Republican fascist put it on our voting app. forms anyway.

  4. democommie:

    Michael Heath:

    I hope that you will spend your next several weekends in Detroit* helping to register voters (not in Grosse Pointe**). {;>)

    Travel Tip: Drive the old car and make sure you’ve got full coverage on it.

    ** Ya GOTTA laff at the “e” on the ends of both words. Minor MLB trivia question.

    Who has 4 consonants that are the same letter in his surname of 8 letters?

  5. arno:

    The problem with requiring photo-ID for voting would be that in the US, not everyone has such an ID and getting one is non-trivial compared to voting?

  6. eric:

    @5: yes.

    First, keep in mind that even a trivially easy process can matter if it takes a while to do. For example, California issues you a paper (no photo) ID for up to 90 days. If you’ve just moved to CA, you aren’t getting one before the election. CA on its own is a non-trivial problem; 50 million people, about 1/7th of the entire population.

    Second, changing your state drivers license may be easy in terms of filling out the form, but if it takes a day off work, people will put it off. Add in kids and stuff and even a single Saturday morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can be difficult to pull off. And remember, each applicant must show up in person. Its not like I can take a day off work and get both my and my wife’s ID cards. If we both need one, first I have to go in, then she has to go in.

    While not a huge effect, these problems would result in there being a slight bias in voter numbers favoring (1) people who stay in the same place for years, vs. those who move around a lot, and (2) wealthier people who can take time off work/family to stand in a DMV line for half a day, vs. blue collar worker for whom paid days off are more difficult to come by.

    Guess which political party these biases favor.

  7. Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare:

    Why is it that in these bad ecomonic days, I don’t hear anyone at all complaining about what all this “voter fraud” foo-fa-rah COSTS0–for what is essentially wasted effort?

    Seems like it should be a HUGE PR point for Democrats–the Rethugs are wasting taxpayer dollers on “solving” a non-existant problem.

  8. Gwynnyd:

    Hey! Don’t diss Grosse Pointe. It has a lot of nice average people living in quite modest homes. – and it votes primarily Democrat.

  9. macallan:

    Another issue could be that sometimes people are allowed to vote in local elections (I know where I went to college in Texas they were encouraging the international students to vote). If this is true, and resident aliens are allowed to vote locally, then it could be very confusing to them that they are not allowed to vote in national elections. Perhaps our election laws could be clarified a bit, or cleaned up somewhat.

    In fact the letter that came with my greencard said exactly that, without specifying what exactly those ‘certain local elections’ were. So I asked around, got nothing remotely resembling a sane answer and concluded that the state I’m living in doesn’t do this.

  10. matthewfedder:

    Even in Gore vs. Bush, this would have been less than the margin of difference between the two.

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