Thursday, May 31, 2012

I Think Rick Scott Is Breaking The Law

UPDATE: see below.
Specifically, I think he's violating people's civil liberties by pushing a purge of eligible voters off the election rolls (copied from ThinkProgress):

Initially, the state created a list of over 180,000 purported “non-citizens” by comparing their list of registered voters to the state motor vehicle database. The state forwarded about 2700 names from that list to local officials to remove from the rolls. Yesterday, in the face of mounting problems with the limited effort, Scott administration officials made it clear they were just getting started:
Chris Cate, a spokesman for the state Division of Elections, defended the state’s actions. “It’s very important we make sure ineligible voters can’t cast a ballot,” he said in an email to the Herald on Tuesday.
He said the state continues to identify ineligible voters, saying the state Division of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has agreed to update information using a federal database that the elections division couldn’t access directly.
“We won’t be sending any new names to supervisors until the information we have is updated, because we always want to make sure we are using the best information available,” Cate wrote. “I don’t have a timetable on when the next list of names will be sent to supervisors, but there will be more names.”

It’s unclear how the new procedures alluded to by Cate will solve the systemic problems with the voter purge list. There have been several individuals targeted by the list that have been citizens their entire lives. Therefore, there seems to be a major problems beyond outdated citizenship information.
Moreover, the entire process of database matching to remove voters is problematic. The Fair Elections Legal Network, which is challenging the purge, noted that database matching is “notoriously unreliable” and “data entry errors, similar-sounding names, and changing information can all produce false matches.”
The first list was also created with information accessible to the state motor vehicle administration, which the former Secretary of State Kurt Browning considered so unreliable he refused to release. Browning resigned in February.

Why do I think Scott and his underlings are breaking the law here?

For starters, denying a citizen's right to vote without any kind of judicial review or right of defense is a major problem.  It violates federal constitutional standards in the Fourteenth Amendment, First Section:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Bold highlights mine.  This "voter purge" is depriving eligible honest-to-God citizens their life and liberty, expressly their right to vote that is a key and necessary right.  The right to vote is SERIOUS BUSINESS.  Anyone working in legal guardianship/power of attorney stuff will tell you that determining a person to be "incapacitated" requires a full review by licensed doctors and presided over by judges.  And one of the rights at stake in issuing guardianships is the Right To Vote, alongside the Right To Marry, Right to Form Contracts, etc.  When you lose that Right To Vote, it's viewed as a major loss of self-determination.

Let's be clear: voter fraud may happen, but it is not happening on the scale that the Far Right is screaming about.  Most cases are just regular people failing to update their residency status, or else felons who failed to re-instate their voting rights, or immigrants going through a naturalization process jumping the gun too early.  It's not thousands of zombie "voters" through whom political bosses are faking to stuff ballot boxes.  Out of the MILLIONS who are registered to vote, only tens of cases - not even hundreds of cases - are there any evidence of outright fraud taking place.  This voter purge is over an over-hyped "scandal".  This ain't ACORN, people.  And even ACORN was overblown nonsense.

And the ones getting purged seem to be the minorities and poor people.  Which reeks of the Jim Crow "deny the votes" attitude that harms this nation's reputation as a home of liberty and justice for all.  What's really going on is that the Republicans are going after the voting groups that will tend to vote Democrat, in an effort to reduce the risks of a big turnout this election cycle of angry Democrats pissed off about what's been happening here in Florida (and other states pushing this purge crap) since 2010.

To anyone getting purged by Rick "HaHa I Was Never Convicted" Scott, I think you have a serious case of filing a civil rights charge against him.  I'll leave it to the actual legal experts if there are any reading this blog to suggest which actual statute is being violated: I think it's a federal jurisdiction in terms of the civil right being violated, and I think it's 42 USC s 1983 that is the relevant law, unless there are more specific laws in the US Code.

UPDATE EDIT: This night the Talking Points Memo site is reporting that the Department of Justice has sent a letter to the Florida Secretary of State (the one in direct charge of overseeing elections) demanding that the state stop the voter purge:

DOJ also said that Florida’s voter roll purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which stipulates that voter roll maintenance should have ceased 90 days before an election, which given Florida’s August 14 primary, meant May 16.

Five of Florida’s counties are subject to the Voting Rights Act, but the state never sought permission from either the Justice Department or a federal court to implement its voter roll maintenance program. Florida officials said they were trying to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, but a flawed process led to several U.S. citizens being asked to prove their citizenship status or be kicked off the rolls...

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