Trial Over Broward’s Disputed Voting Lists Ends
This article by Larry Barszewski was published August 2, 2017 by The Sun-Sentinel.
Broward County is not doing enough to remove ineligible voters from its lists, it was claimed at a federal trial that wrapped Wednesday.
The argument came from the conservative American Civil Rights Union, which has been pursuing similar claims nationwide.
ACRU attorney J. Christian Adams in his closing argument said voter rolls had:
- 48 registered voters who were older than the oldest living American, including a few who topped 130 years old;
- 1,200 voters whose registrations were accepted even though they used invalid commercial addresses for their residences;
- 23 percent of voters identified as having died in 2011 who were still on the voting rolls in May 2012.
On top of that, Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes even admitted during testimony that non-citizens have registered and cast ballots in the county, Adams said.
“It isn’t reasonable to do the bare minimum in Broward County. The bare minimum isn’t reasonable when severe problems exist,” Adams said.
The defense said the data provided was misleading. Some voters, such as boat dwellers and homeless people, don’t have residential addresses. The dead people who were found on the rolls in 2012 were removed after the elections office verified the information it was given.
And information the ACRU wants Bloom to order the county to begin using —- from a detailed driver’s license information data base, jury recusal forms and the Social Security Death Index —- are all materials already being provided to the elections office through the state on a daily basis, said attorney Kali Bracey, arguing on behalf of the SEIU United Healthcare Workers union that intervened in the suit on Snipes’ behalf.
“The plaintiff’s goal is not to improve the voting rolls in Broward County,” Bracey said. “Make no mistake, the plaintiff’s goal is to obtain an overly broad ruling to take across the country to scare counties into removing voters that should be on the rolls.”
A ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Beth Bloom isn’t expected for several months.
The ACRU, which filed the suit a year ago, is being represented by the Public Interest Legal Foundation. Both are conservative organizations that say their efforts to purge voter rolls of ineligible voters are designed to restore election integrity and reduce the potential of voter fraud. In 2015 alone, the foundation sent letters to elected officials in 141 counties in 21 states threatening lawsuits if those counties didn’t step up efforts to remove ineligible voters from their voter rolls.
Bloom gave the parties until Sept. 15 to submit their proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law that she will use in making her determination. Voters can be removed from the rolls if they die, become felons, are mentally incapacitated or move out of the county.
The current case could set a national precedent as it is the first to have a complete trial. A few have ended with settlements, but attorney Burnadette Norris-Weeks said Snipes isn’t interested in anything that indicates the elections office isn’t doing its job.
“We believe that we’ve shown that we follow Florida law,” Norris-Weeks said.
One of the chief indicators the suit used to claim the county’s rolls had thousands of ineligible voters was an analysis that showed more registered voters than eligible voting-age residents in the county. The suit said one year the number of registered voters amounted to 103 percent of voting-age residents in the county.
During the trial in Miami federal court on Wednesday, University of Florida Professor Daniel Smith testified those rates were flawed and unreliable because they used “two different databases designed for two different things.”
Smith, an expert witness for the defense and political science professor, said even if the percentage were as high as indicated, that still wouldn’t mean poor practices regarding ineligible voters was the reason.
Smith’s own review showed that between January 2015 and January 2017, about 192,000 people were removed from the county’s voter rolls and another 148,645 had had their addresses changed.
“That seems to be pretty clear evidence … of some type of list maintenance going on,” Smith said.