Fla. Official Insists on Purging Voters Despite Major Program Flaws
On Wednesday, Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a letter to the Department of Justice stating that the state’s purge of voters will continue. Project Vote has already put the state on notice, stating that the purge comes at a time too close to an election. The purge has flaws that could result in eligible Americans being dropped from the rolls. Our notice letter demands a response in mid-June. If the purge does not stop, Project Vote and its allies intend to sue.
The state is issuing letters to registered voters demanding that they prove they are citizens. If they do not, their names will be dropped from the voter roll. So, if you happen to miss your mail while you are off enjoying the beach this weekend and don’t respond to the county registrar, come Election Day, you may not be able to vote.
It’s not fair and it’s harmful to democracy. And, the data matching system the state is using has significant mistakes. Eligible Americans are coming forward with the letters and proof that they should be on the voter rolls. Many states—including Florida—have implemented this kind of data matching program before, and examinations of these programs reveals two things: they are highly flawed and error prone, and they disproportionately impact minorities.
Database matching is unreliable for many reasons: trivial clerical errors alone can compromise the information being matched, and can be expected to lead to a significant error rate. Typos, use of married versus maiden names, data entry errors, and computer processing errors can all cause mis-matching. Moreover, even a perfect process would yield erroneous matches: when the same name and birthday appear on two lists, one cannot be certain that they belong to one person instead of two. The popularity of names is cyclical, and so there is a great likelihood that different individuals born on the same day may share the same name. (Statisticians and mathematicians call this “the Birthday Problem.”)
Yet Detzner insists on going ahead with the purge. That’s irresponsible. The Secretary of State should be seeking to protect voters and make voting more attractive and accessible. Nationwide, there are 51 million eligible Americans who are still not registered to vote. That’s where our focus should be and will be at Project Vote.