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Florida Department of State Receives Commitment from U.S. Department of Homeland Security to Provide Access to Citizenship Database

State and federal government working together to ensure non-citizens can’t dilute ballot of eligible voters

Tallahassee, Florida –

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Florida Department of State (DOS) have received a commitment from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that Florida will be able to access the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database. The SAVE database is the most accurate and comprehensive resource available to verify the status of potential non-citizens on Florida’s voter rolls, making it an important tool to ensure voter rolls are current and accurate.

"I am very pleased that the federal government has committed to giving us the access necessary to identify noncitizens on the voter rolls and make sure these ineligible voters cannot cast a ballot," said Secretary Detzner. "Florida voters are counting on their state and federal governments to cooperate in a way that ensures elections are fair, beginning with ensuring the voter rolls are current and accurate. Now, we have a commitment to cooperate from DHS and we look forward to a partnership that improves our election process."

On June 11, 2012, DOS filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for failing to provide access to the SAVE database for nearly a year. Federal law expressly requires DHS to respond to state inquiries seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within its jurisdiction for any purpose authorized by law.

In a separate lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) against DOS, a federal judge recently upheld Florida’s right to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls whenever they are identified, despite DOJ claims to the contrary. Furthermore, the judge said that the state and federal government should work together because non-citizens voting in Florida’s elections constitutes "irreparable harm" to Florida and its voters.

In 2011, the Florida Department of State received information from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicating that non-citizens may be registered to vote in Florida. However, while processing the new information, it became evident that the Department of State’s ability to validate a person’s current legal status using state-level resources alone was limited. In order to validate this information, the department sought access to the SAVE database.