A second voter-ID hearing is set to begin in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Sept. 13. But what’s been less talked about in-state is the push for a ‘voter purge’ in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.
The purge talk began when newly elected Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) decided in February 2011 that it was time to clean up the state’s voter rolls of undocumented immigrants and others who might be voting when, in fact, they shouldn’t. The story went mainstream earlier this year in the shadow of the voter-ID mess, in which plenty of Florida citizens who’d been legally living in the Sunshine State for decades were suddenly being forced to prove their citizenship.
Then the U.S. Department of Justice got involved, attempting to stop the state from challenging voters’ legality on civil-rights grounds. (Like voter-ID, a vast majority of those on the purge rolls, and therefore affected, are minorities.) Florida sued back, and the effort remains in limbo.
One of the groups initially pushing for the voter purge in Florida is True the Vote, a nonprofit run by conservatives (and affiliated with conservative legal group Judicial Watch) dedicated to encouraging “volunteer activism in the election process and to ensure that the votes of legal citizens are not canceled out by illegal voters including felons, illegal immigrants and dead people,” according to the group’s president, Catherine Engelbrecht.
As it turns out, Pennsylvania may be next on her list.
True the Vote says its efforts are legal, according to Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act, which says states are required to make a “reasonable effort” to clean up voter-registration rolls. But, like voter-ID, many have called the effort one that’s been conducted in a partisan manner—and one that singles out swing states (like us).
In fact, there are lawsuits filed by both True the Vote and Judicial Watch in several other states, including Pennsylvania, to purge more voters from the rolls. Judicial Watch also notes it has found “voter rolls [that] appear to contain the names of individuals who are ineligible to vote” in the commonwealth.
“We are considering other lawsuits,” Jill Farrell of Judicial Watch tells PW by email.
Meanwhile, the group is assembling an army of election-watchers to descend upon polling places on Election Day. Farrell says she’s trying to stop another 2000 presidential election—in which President Bush won the state of Florida by just 537 votes after more than 180,000 voters and paper ballots were stricken—from taking place. The irony, of course, being that it was Democrats who felt screwed in Florida that year, not Republicans.
“The 2000 presidential election was decided by just over 500 votes in Florida, creating a national nightmare,” she says. “When 180,000 potential votes in Florida (or Indiana, or anywhere else for that matter) are in question, it is only common sense that something be done to correct the problem.” (R.L.)