Fears of electoral deception and dysfunction are rising once again in Florida as Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrapped up a 5-city PR swing in Fort Lauderdale today, selling a new version of a problem-plagued, old school voter purge.
Appointed by Governor Rick Scott last February, Detzner took to the road to tell Supervisors of Elections and other stakeholders why they shouldn’t be afraid of the 2014 version of a plan he so strongly defended just before it crashed and burned in 2012.
That time around, the state sent letters to about 200,000 Floridians – most of them Democratic-leaning Hispanic and African American voters - claiming they were not eligible to vote. Turns out, less than 200 of those people were actually ineligible, and the entire plan had to be scrapped.
This helps explain ample skepticism statewide about anything the Scott administration calls electoral “reform”. It’s not just the 2012 voter purge that gives people pause about Rick Scott and Republican Party of Florida tactics. There’s also ample evidence they engaged in a broad-based, calculated voter suppression conspiracy leading up to that critical election.
Evidence includes information revealed and confirmed by Republican officials and consultants who were party to their party’s efforts to block the voting rights of citizens likely to vote Democratic.
The 2012 plan combined voter purges and intimidation with a new law severely reducing early voting time and limiting new voter registration; a law passed by the Republican legislative super-majority, signed by Governor Scott, implemented by Secretary of State Detzner – then largely overturned by the courts.
The widely criticized plan backfired in design, execution and expected result, running afoul of the Department of Justice and inspiring outraged Democratic voters to turn out in massive numbers, helping reelect President Obama and wrestling super-majority control of the state House away from the GOP.
Flash forward to 2013.
Facing an uphill battle for 2014 reelection and a Florida Democratic Party poised to gain more seats and balance in the legislature, Governor Scott unveils a new voter purge plan. And he sends Secretary of State Detzner out on the road to sell it.
The revised plan once again targets Florida’s large and growing Hispanic population, over 70 percent of which voted Democratic in 2012. But with its stated goal of getting undocumented immigrants off the voter rolls, Haitian and other Democratic-leaning immigrant communities are also squarely in its sights.
This, even though County Elections Supervisors like Leon County’s Ion Sancho have said, "We have no evidence that non-citizen voting is a problem..."
In response, Detzner has said:
“I don’t measure things to see if they are a big problem or a small problem. I’m just required by law to do this. The Legislature and the governor told me that non-citizens are ineligible. I have to make sure, to the best of my ability, that they don’t vote.”
And so Detzner is on the road this week selling the 2014 voter purge plan, explaining that while the disastrous 2012 version used faulty Motor Vehicle records to identify supposedly ineligible voters, the new plan is using far superior Department of Homeland Security data.
Detzner is also distributing an inexplicably confusing “explanatory graphic” about the new purge process that is raising eyebrows and prompting ridicule in many corners of the state.
The Secretary of State’s credibility is further strained by completely contradictory comments he has made over the past six months or so about the Florida GOP’s 2012 voter suppression strategy:
When questioned in a YouTube interview late last March about that already discredited effort, he said:
“Well, I don’t really think there were any mistakes made…”
Then last week, just before stepping out on his traveling salesman tour, Detzer sounded this conciliatory tone:
“We learned from the mistakes that we made. We won’t make the same mistakes.”
We shall see.
Mindful of the plan he implemented and defended in 2012, and mindful that people in politics sometimes reveal hidden meanings in public statements, carefully consider this last quote from Detzner last week, describing the GOP's Florida voter purge plan for 2014:
“It's going to start very slowly and it's going to be deliberative and transparent.”