-By Leonard Pitts Jr.
June 2, 2012- Bill Internicola had to show his papers.
He received a letter last month from the Broward County Supervisor of Elections informing him the office had “information from the state of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however, you are registered to vote.” So Internicola had to prove he is an American. He sent the county a copy of his Army discharge papers.
Internicola is 91 years old. He was born in Brooklyn. He is a veteran of the Second World War. He earned a Bronze Star for his part in the Battle of the Bulge. Yet he was required to prove to a county functionary that he is entitled to vote in an American election.
We learn from reporter Amy Sherman’s story last week in The Miami Herald that this is part of a campaign by Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, to weed non-citizens off the rolls of the state’s voters. Initially, Florida claimed roughly 180,000 were possible noncitizens. That number was eventually whittled way down to about 2,600 people. In Miami-Dade County, where the largest number of them live, 385 have been verified as citizens. Ten – 10! – have admitted they are ineligible or asked to be removed from the rolls.
The Herald recently analyzed the list and found it dominated by Democrats, independents and Hispanics. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites were least likely to have their voting rights challenged.
Voter suppression? Intimidation? No way, says Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry. He blasted Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for criticizing the effort. Nelson, he said, “asks our public servants to ignore the threat to electoral integrity.”
But the “threat” is very nearly non-existent. Tova Wang, an expert in election law, told U.S. News and World Report in April that the number of people who have been prosecuted successfully for voter fraud is “ridiculously low.” A 2006 report from the Brennan Center For Justice at New York University School of Law found documented examples of voter fraud to be “extremely rare” and likened it to one’s chances of being killed by lightning. On Friday, the Justice Department weighed in, ordering the state to stop this voter purge. The Feds say that, among other failings, the policy violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act.