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Some Question Integrity Of 'Project Integrity Tour' Aimed At Voter Purge Support

Voters cast their ballots (undated)
Sascha Cordner

As the state looks to renew its effort to remove non U.S. citizens from Florida’s voter rolls, Secretary of State Ken Detzner will be traveling the state next month to get input from local supervisor of elections. But, some say they're skeptical about the plan.

"What is going on is an effort to gin up conservative support to fear monger...it's pure politics."

Detzner says he wants to work with all 67 supervisors of elections to “protect the integrity of the state’s voter rolls.” So, he launched a “Project Integrity tour." Florida Department of State spokeswoman Brittany Lesser says it’s a series of roundtable discussions Detzner hopes to have with the county supervisors in five different Florida cities.

“Hoping to have them attend one of the meetings in their closest area to hear from them about the different concerns they have and also to educate about the different processes to maintain list maintenance. So, the Secretary will be speaking to them, and we’ll be hearing from them as well,” said Lesser.

But, Polk County elections supervisor and President of the Florida elections supervisors association, Lori Edwards says while she’ll attend one of the discussions, she thinks  supervisors will be taking a “wait and see” approach.

“I think the Division of Elections take their time and does thorough research not only to ensure someone their identifying is in fact, not a citizen of the United States, but they are matching them up with the correct voter, not a case of mistaken identity. Because that is what occurred during the last efforts to purge voters just prior to the presidential election in 2012,” said Edwards.

Last year, state officials at first identified 180,000 names on the state’s voter rolls, which they deemed questionable.  After giving the list to local supervisors, officials later reduced it to about 2,600. But county supervisors still found names that shouldn’t have been included once they began the removal process.

And, University of Florida Political Professor Daniel Smith says that's why the state should not pursue this again. Smith is a voting rights expert, who opposed the so-called “voter purge” in a federal lawsuit in 2012. He says this is nothing more than a re-election tactic by Governor Rick Scott to energize the conservative base.

“What is going on is an effort to gin up conservative support to fear monger that there are thousands of non-citizens on the voter rolls or thousands of people who live in other states or thousands of people for one reason or the other shouldn’t be on the list. The fact of the matter is that is not the case. This is pure politics,” said Smith.

Meanwhile, the first roundtable discussion Detzner will host takes place at 1 p.m. in Bay County on October 3rd. The other discussions will take place on four separate October dates in the following areas: Duval, Orange, Sarasota, and Broward counties.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on twitter @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.