Contact: Chris Cate
850.245.6522

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Agrees to Terms with Florida Department of State Over Legal Status Checks of Potential Non-Citizen Voters

Florida elections officials will begin work to ensure non-citizens can't dilute ballot of eligible voters

Tallahassee, Florida –

More than a month after agreeing in principle to grant access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally formalized a Memorandum of Agreement that allows the Florida Department of State (DOS) to use the SAVE database to verify the citizenship status of registered voters. 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.

"Establishing a working partnership with the federal government and gaining access to the most comprehensive resource for validating citizenship has made Florida a national leader in identifying and removing non-citizens from state voter rolls," said Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner. "We have an obligation to ensure Florida's voter rolls are accurate and accessing the SAVE database greatly improves our ability to accomplish that goal, as well as ensure the overall integrity of our elections."

Voter Eligibility Initiative

Department of State employees are being trained this week on how to use the SAVE database. Following the training, these employees will immediately begin checking the legal status of the approximately 2,600 potential non-citizens whose names were provided to supervisors of elections in April for review and possible removal from the rolls. Once the status of these individuals has been confirmed, DOS will begin validating the names of new potential non-citizens through a new matching and review process called the Voter Eligibility Initiative.

Under the Voter Eligibility Initiative, no names of potential non-citizens will be sent to supervisors of elections without having first been reviewed by DOS, checked by the federal SAVE database and verified by SAVE as noncitizens. Furthermore, all potential non-citizens will continue to be granted due process as outlined in the Florida statutes. When a supervisor of elections receives information from DOS that a registered voter is a potential non-citizen, the supervisor must begin the statutory notice and removal process. Potential non-citizens will be provided an explanation of the basis for their potential ineligibility and an opportunity to request a hearing to dispute the determination of potential ineligibility.

Non-citizen Voter Identification History

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.

On June 11, 2012, DOS filed a lawsuit against 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.