Nelson wades into voter purge controversy

Jun 12, 2012

Florida U.S. Senator Bill Nelson is the latest person to jump into the heated debate over Florida’s push to purge its voter rolls of suspected non-citizens.  Nelson’s remarks on the Senate floor Tuesday were preceded by Governor Rick Scott’s rounds on TV talk shows defending the effort.

Florida and the federal government are at odds over the state’s effort to purge more than 180,000 people from the voter rolls that it suspects of being non-citizens. Florida is suing to gain access to a federal database it needs to verify immigration status. And the federal government is suing to block the state from moving ahead with its purge.

“I have an obligation to enforce the laws of the land. You don’t get to vote if you are a non-U.S. Citizen. Homeland Security has been stonewalling to give us a database we’re entitled to. We’ve been asking for months, and it will make sure we do it the right way,”   said Governor Rick Scott Scott Tuesday during appearances on CNN and FOX to explain the state’s position.

He says there are clear examples on why it’s needed. Since the state started the purge effort, it has identified about 100 illegally-registered non-U.S. citizen voters. 50 of whom have cast ballots in prior elections.

But later in the day, Democratic U.S. Senator Bill Nelson called the purge effort, along with controversial new elections law, an attempt at voter suppression.

“We’re two months away from a primary in the middle of August, four months from the general election. And yet the Governor and his administration end up doing this. What they ought to do is ensure the credibility of our voter rolls, not suppress citizens from voting under the fiction of some perceived fraud,”   Nelson said in remarks on the Senate floor.

His words were slammed by state Republican party chairman Lenny Curry, who in a written statement, accused Nelson of siding with “liberal special interests”.

The state wants to check its list of suspected non-citizen voters against the federal government’s immigration database, but it can’t gain that access, because the federal government says the state has not provided the information needed to use the system-- such as alien registration numbers or certificate numbers found on immigration documents.