Florida. Again.

    It’s a bit rich to see Florida Gov. Rick Scott positioning himself as a crusader against voter fraud – given the fact that, as a top health care executive, he was once implicated in the nation’s worst-ever case of Medicare fraud – but we know what his so-called cleansing of the Florida voter rolls is really all about.He’s doing his bit for the Mitt Romney campaign, which views Florida as a must-win state in November.If you haven’t tracked the Florida “purge” story – which has taken a few more twists in the last 24 hours – here’s the short version: The Scott regime, claiming that voter fraud infests the Sunshine State, decided not long ago to check the rolls and remove the presumably huge number of non-citizens who have registered and cast ballots alongside the upstanding legal Floridians. Last week, the Justice Department told Florida to knock it off, contending in a letter that Florida was violating two federal laws. The election supervisors in all 67 counties dutifully knocked it off. But last night, Gov. Scott said that the purge efforts would continue, and he told the Justice Department to buzz off.Ah yes, Florida. Where else would we expect such shenanigans? The state is renowned for its voter-suppression efforts – last year, it tightened the rules for new registrations so severely that the League of Women Voters gave up and said it would stop signing people up – and Scott’s crusade against a non-existent scourge is truly a classic. The Brennan Center for Justice, at the NYU School of Law, recently did an exhaustive report on the non-issue, and concluded that the fears of widespread voter fraud allegations “amount to a great deal of smoke without much fire. The allegations simply do not pan out.” But facts can’t possibly compete with fear – and crass political calculation.Scott’s Republican allies claim that the purge thus far “has uncovered a widespread problem of illegal and erroneous voter registration, exposing as many as 182,000 registered voters as non-U.S. citizens.” So said Florida GOP congressman Tom Rooney, in a letter to the Justice Department. Rooney’s figure was a tad inflated. The actual tally of suspect names is not 182,000. It’s 2700. And of those 2700, several hundred have turned out to be U.S. citizens (including some veterans of World War II).But here are my favorite stats: The most populous county in the state, Miami-Dade, has searched its voter roll for possibly illegal registrants, and found…13. And of those 13 suspects, the number who have apparently cast ballots is…two.Scott’s elections division is talking about “the importance of having accurate voter rolls,” but it just so happens that 87 percent of the suspects thus far are minorities. Which figures. Florida’s minorities, especially new Hispanic and Haitian citizens, are less likely than whites to have government-issued IDs, such as drivers’ licenses (one of the standard criteria for checking the voter rolls), and that brings us to the crux of the matter:The white people’s party knows that Romney has a better chance of winning Florida if white people comprise a higher share of the Florida electorate in November. Romney’s prospects for winning Florida are lessened if the white people share is roughly the same as it was in 2008. Hence the need to cull the rolls, and curb new registrations, by whatever means. As the Brennan report warns, the crusade against the non-existent threat of massive voter fraud “could well disenfranchise legitimate voters.”

    Scott seems unfazed about violating federal law. Under the terms of the National Voter Registration Act, it’s illegal to challenge a person’s registration status within 90 days of a federal election (Florida’s 2012 House and Senate primaries are less than 90 days away). The reason that’s illegal is because the challenged voter typically needs more than 90 days to sort things out; a tight time window increases the risk that the voter’s status will be in limbo on election day, and that he’ll be forced to sit it out. What’s noteworthy in Florida is that some of the county election supervisors are revolting against Scott, precisely because they don’t want to breach that federal provision. As Volusia County supervisor Ann McFall said today, “No matter if Governor Scott says ‘do this,’ we just can’t do it. It’s against the law for me to do that.”Indeed, the skirmish between Scott and Washington – Scott is basically daring the Justice Department to sue him – has only just begun. But it’s clear what the GOP is up to. As Bill Clinton rightly remarked last year, referring to vote-suppression efforts nationwide, “They’re trying to make the 2012 electorate look more like the 2010 electorate than the 2008 electorate.” ——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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