9 Investigates: Florida will not move forward with another voter purge



ORLANDO, Fla. - Less than two years after the failed voter purge of 2012 and only seven months shy of the upcoming state election of 2014, the state of Florida has decided not to go ahead with another planned purge of the voting rolls. 

The decision by Secretary of State Ken Detzner was announced to elections supervisors last week in a two-page letter.

The Florida Department of State said it spent $50,704 in an August 2012 lawsuit against the federal government for access to the SAVE database. 

The federal database was advertised by the state as the answer to criticism it endured in 2012 when state leaders said they had identified 182,000 potential non-citizens on the voting rolls but were forced to reduce that number to less than 200 after election officials discovered wide-spread errors on the list. 

With the new federal data in hand, Detzner conducted a series of meetings across the state with elections supervisions in October 2013 to discuss what was supposed to be a more comprehensive purge of the voter rolls called Project Integrity.

“What has ended is the state sending us data,” said Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Michael Ertel.

A Republican, Ertel was in office in 2012 when the state offered up its first round of data for the purge. 

“In 2012, when they sent that data down, it wasn’t the best data,” said Ertel.

The decision to halt the planned 2014 purge was made by Detzner, who in his letter to state elections supervisors wrote, “I have decided to postpone Project Integrity until the Federal SAVE program Phase II is completed.”

The federal government is currently updating its information in the database, a process that won’t be complete until 2015.

However, Eyewitness News has learned that as early as October 2013, the state of Florida was aware of problems with the SAVE database. 

According to the agreement between the state and the feds, the SAVE system has its flaws. The agreement states, “The inability of the SAVE program to verify your citizenship does not necessarily mean that you are not a citizen of the United States and are ineligible to vote.”

The Florida Department of State said it spent another $2,900 attempting to implement Project Integrity. 

Elections supervisors across central Florida applauded the decision by the state to suspend the purge, pointing out that time was running out to complete a purge before the election and that each elections office already conducts its own auditing of voter rolls to remove those ineligible to vote.

“Florida voters should be delighted by this news,” wrote League of Women Voters of Florida President Deirdre Macnab.  “Independently elected Supervisors of Elections are already standing sentry on making sure that only eligible citizens are voting. Programs like 'Project Integrity' have proven time and time again to disproportionally impact minority voters and erroneously disenfranchise those that are eligible.”