Florida was granted access to a federal database of noncitizen residents following months of argument surrounding the Republican-backed proposal, Gov. Rick Scott announced on his website, Saturday, July 14. The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program is a Web-based database that allows agencies to ensure that only those entitled to benefits receive them.
In this case, the program will be used to prevent noncitizens from voting in Florida elections.
“We’ve already confirmed that noncitizens have voted in past elections here in Florida,” Scott said in a statement. “Now that we have the cooperation of the Department of Homeland Security, our state can use the most accurate citizenship database in the nation to protect the integrity of Florida’s election process.”
During an interview on cable TV Monday, July 16, Scott said the decision could create a path for other states to also utilize the SAVE database to scrub their voting rolls.
The fight between Florida and the federal government was watched closely by officials in the swing states of Colorado, Nevada, Michigan and North Carolina, which are requesting similar access.
Democratic opposition to such access is rooted in the fear that Republicans will go too far with the database and restrict legal citizens from voting, a “mistake” that wouldn’t be caught until it was too late. Furthermore, voting and civil rights groups say the use of such a database will impinge on the democratic nature of fair elections — if poor people can’t afford documentation that may be required to vote or if such a requirement deters voters, then it could be unconstitutional.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits states from imposing any act that will undermine the equality of all citizens in an election. The act has been renewed and amended by Congress four times and was given a 25-year extension by President George W. Bush in 2006.
Now, 32 states have laws affecting voter identification, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Florida is the first state to have access to the SAVE database, and several counties in Arizona have access too.
Colin wrote for Government Technology from 2010 through most of 2016.