WashPost Editorial Misleads Readers About Florida Voter Roll Cleanup Effort

The Washington Post editorial board today set out to slam Florida's Republican governor for "threaten[ing] the integrity of elections" with his voter "purge" effort and for enforcing the state's new curtailed early-voting hours.

But in their editorial on the matter, the Post misled readers with deceptive language about how the state undertook its voter roll cleanup effort (emphasis mine):

Florida’s promise to ban non-citizens from voting sounds benign, but the method behind its purges causes serious concern. In a preliminary drafting of a list, Florida’s secretary of state, Ken Detzner, came up with some 2,600 possible names. When the list was shown to county election officials, a number of citizens were discovered on it, including war veterans and longtime voters. To correct these mistakes, state officials plan to use more comprehensive data from the Department of Homeland Security, but even so, some citizens may be denied the right to vote. It’s good to see that pending lawsuits will challenge the dubious necessity of this measure.

That language suggests that the state of Florida went into its voter rolls cleanup without originally intending to use the "more comprehensive data" from the feds.

But the truth of the matter, as Post reporter Rachel Weiner noted in July, is that the Obama administration -- which is fighting voter ID laws and other vote security efforts in the various states -- initially refused to grant Florida access to Homeland Security's resident alien database (emphasis mine):

The agreement, a victory for Republicans, comes after months of back-and-forth between Scott’s administration and the federal government over access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements database, which is designed to determine eligibility for benefits — not voting.

Republican administrations across the country are cracking down on potential voter fraud, mostly through more restrictive voter ID laws. The Department of Justice has been fighting many of these efforts, with the support of Democrats who argue that the real goal is to disenfranchise poor and minority voters.

Florida is being closely watched by both sides because the attempt to proactively remove ineligible voters from the rolls goes a step beyond other states’ efforts.

Florida Department of State spokesman Chris Cate said the agreement will be signed within days and the Scott administration will begin checking names against the database.

“Homeland Security has been very cooperative,” he said. “The names we’re going to be sending to supervisors are names we have absolute verification through the SAVE database that someone is a noncitizen.”

Florida began attempting to remove ineligible voters from the rolls back in 2011 but could not get access to federal data on noncitizens. So the state relied on data from the motor vehicles department.


A federal judge rejected a Justice Department request to suspend the purge. But other lawsuits against Florida are pending, alleging that the purge cannot take place less than 90 days before an election and without preclearance from the DOJ.

Florida can now access the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, which is designed to check whether residents qualify for benefits. But the state must provide a “unique identifier,” such as an “alien number” for each challenged voter, according to the Associated Press, not just names and birthdates. Legal noncitizens have these numbers.

Federal officials denied access to the database for more than a year, saying Florida had failed to provide such unique identifiers.

Campaigns & Elections 2012 Presidential 2012 Congressional Washington Post Florida Rachel Weiner Rick Scott