Scott's administration hopes to restart a suspended voter registration purge that was hampered this year by faulty data and bad publicity. The review, using driver's license information, initially produced 180,000 voters' names considered worthy of checking. County election supervisors examined 2,625 people on the list. But more than 500 were soon found to be citizens, and the review was halted.
State records show that 86 noncitizens were removed from the voter rolls since April 11, and more than half of them had voted in previous elections.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner asked election officials Saturday to restart the review. He said it will "include a carefully calibrated matching process" between the state's driver and voter data "before any records are verified through SAVE."
But Florida Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, said Scott and his team should not be purging voter lists so close to a big election.
"This is just another in the continuing saga of his efforts to suppress the vote, along with a lot of the other Republican governors," Joyner said. "They are all caught up in trying to keep this president from getting re-elected."
While some noncitizens who are legal residents may knowingly try to register and vote, others apparently do so unwittingly. After obtaining a driver's license, some assume they also can vote, officials say.
Access to the federal SAVE list may catch such ineligible voters in Florida. They presumably would have an alien number and be listed in state motor vehicle records.
Voter-rights groups expressed concerns about Florida's efforts.
"No matter what database Florida has access to, purging voters from the rolls using faulty criteria on the eve of an election could prevent thousands of eligible voters from exercising their rights," said Jonathan Brater, a lawyer with the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. "Florida must use a more transparent and accurate process and must leave enough time for voters targeted for removal to be notified and correct errors," he said.
Some state governments have sought access to the federal database for years. Federal officials told Washington state in 2005 they saw no way to compare voters and the Homeland Security information.
Colorado has sought the federal data for a year. Colorado, which has a Democratic governor but a Republican secretary of state, Scott Gessler, has identified about 5,000 registered voters that it wants to check against the federal information.
Officials in the politically competitive states of Ohio, Michigan, New Mexico and Iowa — all led by GOP governors — are backing his efforts.
Gessler said 430 registered voters have acknowledged being ineligible, but an "unenforceable honor system does not build confidence in our elections."
Although Republican activists have repeatedly said fraud is so widespread that it has corrupted the political process and, possibly, cost the party election victories, about 120 people have been charged and 86 convicted as of last year.
In 2007, five years after the George W. Bush administration launched a crackdown on voter fraud, the Justice Department found virtually no evidence of organized efforts to influence federal elections with ineligible voters.
Associated Press writers Gary Fineout in Tallahassee, Fla., and Mike Baker in Olympia, Wash., contributed to this report.
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