Florida Voter Purge Has Public's Support

A poll by Quinnipiac University reported that 60 percent of the state's registered voters support the governor's efforts to clear voting rolls of people who aren't citizens.
by | June 21, 2012
 

Kevin Wiatrowski, Tampa Tribune, Fla.

Florida's election supervisors may have doubts about Gov. Rick Scott's urge to purge the state's voter rolls, but voters are strongly in favor of it.

A poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University reported that 60 percent of the state's registered voters support the governor's efforts to clear voting rolls of people who aren't citizens.

The telephone survey of 1,697 people showed that support for the purge varied widely by political party and by race, with 90?percent of Republicans and two-thirds of white voters supporting it.

About 60 percent of Democrats and blacks oppose the purge.

Hispanics, who turned up on Scott's purge list in the greatest numbers, are closely split, with 49 percent in favor and 42 opposed.

In the Tampa area, 62 percent of registered voters back the purge.

The governor is less popular in Florida than President Barack Obama these days, but voters are definitely on Scott's side where the purge is concerned, said Peter Brown, assistant director of Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

Democrats have said the purge amounts to a form of voter suppression because many of the people being targeted are minorities. Republicans say it protects the integrity of the electoral system.

"Whether this voter purge becomes a big deal issue in the campaign or not is not clear at this point," Brown said in a statement released with the poll.

Scott has spent the past several weeks urging county election supervisors to purge illegal voters.

The Department of Justice has sued the state to block the purge out of concern that it will disenfranchise legitimate voters. The Justice Department has a say in Florida's election laws because five of the state's 67 counties — including Hillsborough — are still subject to federal review under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Scott hasn't stopped the purge. Instead, he has sued the Department of Homeland Security trying to get its list of non-citizen U.S. residents to compare with the state's voter rolls.

Last month, the state provided counties with a list of 2,600 voters, drawn from driver's license records, who it said were illegally registered to vote. After double-checking that list, local election supervisors said they found errors that would have meant dropping people from the voting rolls who were entitled to be there.

They also found a handful of people who were registered illegally, some of them Canadian snowbirds.

Hillsborough County Elections Supervisor Earl Lennard received 72 names from the state Elections Office. A review of eight names found one person who had to be removed, Lennard said. Lennard has declined to continue fulfilling the governor's request because of concerns about accuracy of the state's list.

"We were advised by legal counsel not to proceed with the list unless we have 100 percent concrete proof someone on our list should be removed," said Travis Abercrombie, spokesman for Lennard's office.

In Pasco County, Election Supervisor Brian Corley likewise stopped reviewing the 13 names he received from the state. Of four people who responded to his office's request for documentation, two were citizens and two were not.

Nine haven't responded and have been flagged for follow-up, Corley said.

"If any of those nine show up to vote," Corley said, "I will personally get on the phone on Election Day and speak to that voter."

Corley said public approval for the purge won't sway his decision to hold off on the purge.

"When I start running things based on polls, then it's time to hang up my cleats," Corley said.

Other results from the Quinnipiac poll showed:

59 percent of Florida voters remain dissatisfied with how things are going in the state, an attitude that's strongest among Democrats, independents, women and Hispanics. In all these groups, more than 60 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied.

Republicans were the only group of voters with a majority, 54 percent, saying they're satisfied. 49 percent of the state's registered voters disapprove of Scott's job as governor, which is within a point or two of Scott's approval ratings by Quinnipiac since the beginning of the year. The same percentage of voters said they didn't like Scott's policies. 50 percent of voters disapprove of the Legislature's performance. Men and women were evenly divided on their disapproval. 51 percent of voters approved of GOP Sen. Marco Rubio's job performance. Rubio's lowest level of support was from his home turf, southeast Florida, where 42 percent of voters approved of his job performance. 47 percent of voters approved of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson's job performance. Nelson, who is up for re-election this year, got his strongest support in southeast Florida (53 percent) and the Tampa area (48 percent).

©2012 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)

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