How to Keep New Citizens from Voting: A voter disenfranchisement plan by FL Senator Joe Gruters

Guest Post by Barb Howe for Indivisible Gainesville

Sen. Joe Gruters likes to solves problems –that’s why he’s the chair of the Florida Republican Party. But what are “problems” to him may not be problems to most people. In this case, he wants to solve the problem of new citizens voting.

S0230 would require the Department of Motor Vehicles to notify the Department of State (and thus the supervisor of Elections offices) any time anyone tells them they are an “alien”. Not an “illegal alien” as they like to say, but a legal one, that is, a legal immigrant to our country.

Why ask about immigration status when getting a driver’s license? Short answer: So they can make a list of every “alien” and use it to purge them from the voter registration rolls even if they later become citizens. The reasoning is the citizenship process takes a long time to go through and in the meantime most people need to drive cars. A large number of legal immigrants will go on to become citizens and thus gain to right to vote but they may have a hard time exercising that right if they’ve already been purged from the system.

In this newstory from Texas the person in charge of voter registration there requested a list of such people from the Department of Public Safety (Texan version of the DMV) and then used that to question the citizenship of every one of those people who were registered to vote. The problem is he didn’t bother to check whether any of those people had since become citizens. Many legal immigrants do eventually become citizens. They hardly would’ve notified the DMV since their status as licensed drivers hadn’t changed. But little do they know they’re already flagged as people who are not supposed to be voting. What a convenient way to keep them from participating in democracy!

Once someone is on that list, how would they get off it after they complete the citizenship process and are legally eligible to vote? Possibly they would, in theory, go back to the DMV and say something like: I’m no longer an alien now but my status as a driver hasn’t changed and so maybe you could just update your records anyway so that I don’t get purged from the voter roles for having once been an alien?

I can see the dead look glazing over the eyes of the counter clerk at the DMV from here already. Huh? That’s not going to happen. What’s going to happen is all those new citizens who are enthusiastic about voting will find themselves unable to do so.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, LULAC, filed a lawsuit in Texas to stop the purge of these voters, saying the intent of the law is to disenfranchise new citizens:

“Every year, more than 50,000 Texans are naturalized and become U.S. citizens. The new voters usually vote at 90% levels.”

See, that’s a problem if you’re a Republican like Sen. Joe Gruters, sponsor of the Florida bill. Generally, the more people vote, the harder it is for Republicans to get elected and stay in office and new immigrants especially are unlikely to support the Republican party. So you can see why all these enthusiastic new citizens need to be prevented from voting. Thanks Joe, for protecting democracy from those evil newcomers who dared to immigrate legally to our country. Let’s hope they weren’t overly keen on the whole voting thing.



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