On Wednesday, November 7, Mitt Romney could wake up as the President-elect thanks to one man: Florida Governor Rick Scott. With little fanfare, Scott is undertaking an audacious plan to kick thousands of Floridians off the ballot just before this year’s elections. It’s a sloppy, chaotic and possibly illegal plan. But it just might work. Here’s how:
1. Scott has created a massive list of Floridians to purge from the voting rolls before the election. Late last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” But Browning did not have access to reliable citizenship data. The state attempted to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing the voting file with data from the state motor vehicle administration, but the motor vehicle data does not contain updated citizenship information. The process, which created a list of 182,000 people, was considered so flawed by Browning that he refused to release the data to county election officials. Browning resigned in February and Scott has pressed forward with the purge, starting with about 2600 voters.
2. The list of “ineligible” voters is riddled with errors and includes hundreds of eligible U.S. citizens. According to data obtained by ThinkProgress, in Miami-Dade county alone, 1638 people were flagged by the state as “non-citizens.” Already, 359 people on the list have provided the county with proof of citizenship and 26 people were identified as U.S. citizens directly by the county. The remaining 1200 have simply not responded to the letter informing them of their purported ineligibility. Similar problems have been identified in Polk County and Broward County.
3. Scott’s list is heavily targeted at Democratic and Hispanic voters. A study by the Miami Herald found that “Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted in a state hunt to remove thousands of noncitizens from Florida’s voting rolls.” For example, Hispanics comprise 58 percent of the list but just 13 percent of eligible voters. Conversely, “Whites and Republicans are disproportionately the least-likely to face the threat of removal.”
4. Florida election officials have acknowledged that, as a result of Scott’s voter purge, eligible voters will be removed from the rolls. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress. On or about June 9, anyone who hasn’t responded to the ominous and legalistic letter informing them of their purported ineligibility will be removed from the rolls. Some eligible voters won’t have been able to respond by that time due to travel, work obligations, family obligations or confusion as to the purpose of the letter. Some will forget to open it. Others may have moved.
5. Florida will likely be a close contest in 2012 and purging eligible Democratic and Hispanic voters could tip the balance to Romney. In the latest Real Clear Politics average of polling in the state, Romney and Obama are separated by just 0.5 percent. Hundreds of eligible voters in Democratic strongholds, wrongfully purged from the rolls, could easily make the difference for Romney.
6. Winning Florida could clinch the election for Mitt Romney. Nationally, the race between Obama and Romney is within two points. It’s expected to be close all the way to election day and Florida’s 29 electorial votes would be the deciding factor in many plausable electorial scenarios.
Will history repeat itself in Florida this year? By one estimate, 7000 Florida voters were wrongfully removed from the voter rolls for the 2000 presidential election — 13 times George W. Bush’s margin of victory in that state after the U.S. Supreme Court halted the post-election recount.