Report: Voter fraud rare in Florida

3:09 PM, Jun 6, 2012   |    comments
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - As Governor Rick Scott and the state government prepare to defy a federal request to stop the voter roll purge; the constant claim from Scott and the Republican legislature has been the purge is needed to prevent voter fraud.

But, the actual instances of voter fraud are far from being in a statewide crisis.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a total of 178 cases of voter fraud sent to its department since 2000. Out of those cases, a total of 11 arrests have been made.

Attorney General Pam Bondi's office has three open cases dealing with voting in her office, but the cases deal with early registration violations due to a law that was recently overturned by a federal judge.

Most of the decline in voter fraud cases has been since a 2004 law requiring a signature from witnesses on absentee ballots was eliminated by the state legislature.

"I've not heard [of], since that law was changed, any prosecutors in Florida who really have been able to put together a case on absentee-ballot fraud," Miami-Dade State Attorney office spokesman Ed Griffith told the Sentinel.

Still, Governor Scott has ordered that local elections departments purge "non-citizens" from their voter rolls.

The Department of Justice has asked the state to stop the purge, but Scott and the rest of the state government have indicated they will continue to pursue the voter purge even if it means challenging the federal government in court.

The supervisors of elections in the Florida counties have already said they will not continue the voter roll purge. According to the Sentinel, the association of supervisors advised members to halt the program after the federal request to stop the purge was made.

Part of the problem is the purge, according to critics, has unfairly targeted Hispanics. CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald found that 58 percent of those identified in the rolls were Hispanics, despite Hispanics making up just 13 percent of the 11.3 million active registered voters in Florida.

Whites and Republicans were the least-likely to face the threat of removal, the Herald found. Governor Scott denied in comments made to CBS4 that the purge was unfairly targeting minorities and groups that tend to vote Democratic.

A fight over purged rolls isn't anything new to Florida. Thousands of eligible voters were removed from rolls in the months leading up to the 2000 election. During that purge, the voters were erroneously listed as felons, which prevented them from voting, according to National Public Radio. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris headed up the 2000 voter roll purge.

As Tim Russert of NBC News famously said about presidential elections, "It's all about Florida." In 2012, it could be another long night for Florida elections officials as a court battle looms over Governor Scott's plans to scrub the voter rolls.

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