6:13 PM, Jun 12, 2012 | Written by Jeff Burlew Senior government editor Of The Tallahassee Democrat
Two people who indicated on their voter-registration forms that they were not U.S. citizens were placed on Leon County voter rolls anyway, though they since have been purged.
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho said the two individuals, Anet Ekine-Hany and Olumauyowa Ogunjobi, likely were registered because of “human error.” They were removed from voter rolls April 19, after his office received a list from the state of eight voters flagged as potential non-citizens.
The two individuals, both of whom registered ahead of the 2008 presidential election, never voted in Leon County and thus “never affected the outcome of any election in Leon County,” Sancho said.
Sancho announced May 18 that he would not be taking part in a statewide purge of voters sought by Gov. Rick Scott because doing so would violate the federal voter-registration act of 1993, which bans any systematic removal of ineligible voters within 90 days of a federal election.
The same law, however, allows for the removal of voters within the 90-day deadline if they have died or been convicted of a crime or found to be mentally incapacitated. The deadline doesn’t preclude correction of a registrant’s information, Sancho said, which allowed him to purge the two voters.
“We corrected the original error that we made,” Sancho said. “So there is an exception for their removal within the statute, because the law does … want you to keep accurate records.”
Brian Burgess, spokesman for Gov. Scott, said that so far, 52 cases of illegal votes by non-citizens have been found in Florida. He said the Governor’s Office suspects the state may have “a much larger problem,” but there is no way to be sure unless it can access a federal immigration database that it has sued to get.
“These two examples from Leon just underscore the problem,” Burgess said.
The two individuals clearly checked on their voter-registration forms that they were not U.S. citizens. The forms say if you’re not a citizen, “you cannot register to vote.” Sancho said the mistakes were likely made by temporary workers.
Last year, Scott urged elections supervisors to start looking for people on voter rolls who aren’t U.S. citizens. An initial comparison of driver’s license records with voter-registration records turned up as many as 182,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens. Earlier this year, the state sent elections supervisors a smaller list of 2,600 voters and asked them to check the names.
The two people in question, who both listed their birth place as Nigeria, were among eight voters identified by the state as potential non-citizens. Only one of the eight has a voting history, having voted in three elections since 2004, according to Supervisor of Elections records.
The U.S. Justice Department sued Florida on Tuesday over the voter purge, saying it was done too close to August’s primary. The lawsuit comes just a day after the state sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so it could access the immigration database to try to weed out non-citizens.
The Justice Department lawsuit alleges Florida’s search for non-citizen voters, initiated at the request of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, violates a “quiet period” required by federal law during the 90 days before an election. Florida’s primary is Aug. 14. The suit also contends Florida has been using inaccurate and unreliable voter verification procedures.
(The Associated Press contributed to this article.)