Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the U.S. Justice Department are locked in a heated battle over the state's efforts to remove suspected illegal immigrants from voter rolls. The drive is aimed, the state says, at countering voter fraud. Last month, Florida election officials announced that by cross-referencing voter rolls with driver's licenses and other materials, they believed 2,600 registered voters were in fact not U.S. citizens, and that they were looking into the records of another 180,000 registered voters. Suspected noncitizens were then sent letters requiring them to confirm their citizenship in order to retain their voter rights. Critics of the initiative said the measure was effectively a voting purge targeting black and Hispanic communities--87 percent of the 2,600 voters are minorities--which tend to vote Democratic. The U.S. Department of Justice said it would take legal action to stop the voter purge, arguing Florida's actions were in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act. State officials double downed on their efforts, with Scott announcing on Fox News Tuesday that his administration would be suing the federal government over the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's refusal to share its immigration database with election officials, which, he said, would help Florida have "fair, honest elections."
Voter fraud has long been a concern of activists who argue that people can easily register under the names of deceased citizens, double register, or even vote without citizenship, thus compromising the democratic system Americans hold dear. "I have the job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters," Scott said. Yet critics say that voter fraud is an exaggerated and even nonexistent issue, and that measures like those being taken in Florida only disenfranchise certain communities for political reasons. Is voter fraud a real problem? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Hans A. Von Spakovsky Manager of the Heritage Foundation's Civil Justice Reform Initiative
Steven Greenhut Vice President of Journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity
Vanessa Cardenas Director of Progress 2050 at the Center for American Progress
Howard Simon Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida