Republican state Sen. Joe Gruters of Sarasota – also chairman of the state Republican Party and a close ally of President Donald Trump — is pushing legislation that could lead to purging voter rolls.
The bill is advancing in the Legislature and Democrats are livid.
Here’s what’s going on, based on the proposed legislation:
Local circuit court clerks would be required to compile a monthly list of residents who identify themselves as non-citizens during the jury selection process.
The list would be provided to local supervisors of elections who could potentially use it to remove self-identified non-citizens from the list of eligible voters, if they are on it.
The measure also requires the state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles each month to assemble a list of self-identified non-citizens who register for a driver’s license or an identification card. Legal non-citizens can drive in the state, although they are prohibited from voting.
The motor vehicle agency would give the list to the Department of State, which in turn would provide the lists of self-identified non-citizens to the local supervisors of elections.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee on Wednesday endorsed the bill by a 4-3 vote along partisan lines.
Gruters said the “beautiful thing about this bill, it’s all about self-identification.” He said the non-citizens identify themselves either in the jury selection process or when they registered to drive a vehicle or get an identification card from the state.
“At the end of the day, we want to make sure that it’s easy to vote and hard to cheat,” Gruters said. “It’s very important for us as citizens to make sure you have one vote, every vote counts and that we have integrity in the entire election system. And this is just a check to make sure that that happens.”
Democrats strongly objected to the bill, arguing that Florida doesn’t have a problem with non-citizens trying to vote.
“There is an inaccurate narrative going on out there about this idea that non-citizens are trying to game the system and are voting. There is no evidence of that,” said Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Miami-Dade County Democrat.
Rodriguez said there is no problem with non-citizens legally registering to drive or obtain an identification card. But he said the legislation would force the state motor-vehicle agency “to go looking for non-citizens and compiling lists of non-citizens for a purpose that’s not really clear, because we don’t have a problem with non-citizens voting.”
Sen. Oscar Braynon, another Miami-Dade Democrat who opposed the bill, said the measure was based on an anti-immigrant sentiment.
“They’re going to do something wrong, so let’s make sure we report them. Let’s create a list,” he said.
“I do take offense to all these bills that are like this, that are implying that someone who is an immigrant must be coming here to do something wrong,” Braynon said, noting he is the grandson of an immigrant. “I find these types of bills just beyond us as a state, beyond us as a country and beyond us as a Senate.”
Gruters’ bill next heads to the Senate Infrastructure and Security Committee. A similar measure is pending in a House committee.