Latinos in various civic organizations are calling on Florida to stop its attempts to rid the voter rolls of potential non-citizen voters. (Photo/Getty Images )

Florida voter purge should be stopped, say Latino civic leaders

Latino civic and labor organizations held a press conference today urging Florida Governor Rick Scott to stop the effort to purge non-citizens from the state’s voter rolls.  José Suárez, of the organization “One Miami,”says the voter purge is mostly targeting the wrong people.

“If you look at those on the list, the majority are Latino and black,” says Suárez.  “My family is from Cuba, and as soon as they could they became citizens and took great pride in their right to vote. Why would you take this away?”

Suárez explains how some voters who have become citizens a few years before are now receiving letters saying they have to prove their citizenship.  “A Haitian gentleman became a citizen in 2004 and has voted ever since,” he says.  “Then he gets this letter and he has to go take his citizenship documents for the state to review his case? Why put the burden of proof on a citizen?” says Suárez.

A Quinnipiac poll found a majority of Florida residents, including 49 percent of Latinos, do approve of the state’s attempts to purge non-citizens from voter rolls.  Republican legislators including Senator Marco Rubio have expressed their support for the purge. At a recent event, Rubio asked why anyone would be opposed to an effort to prevent non-citizens from voting.

Omayra Hernández, a registered nurse active in her union, local 1991, says the poll results are not surprising. “If you poll someone and ask ‘would you like non-citizens to be purged’ of course you would say yes,” says Hernández, who is also a member of the group Florida New Majority. “The problem is how it is being done —  they should not be using motor vehicles lists, and they should not be doing this close to an election,” she adds, saying she is worried about the fact that more than six in ten Floridians on the lists in Dade County are Latino.

The ACLU as well as the Justice Department have initiated lawsuits against the state.  In the meantime, most election supervisors in the state are not following up with the program pending the lawsuits.

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