Rick Scott was shocked. He was dead.
Or at least that’s what he was told when he went to cast an early vote ballot in 2006 at Naples City Hall.
“You can’t vote because you’re dead,” Scott — who’s now embroiled in a voter-purge controversy as Florida governor — recalls a poll worker saying. “You passed away, according to our voter rolls.”
So Scott pulled out his driver’s license and insisted he was alive.
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“I showed them my ID,” Scott said. “They let me vote provisionally. I’m sure it counted.”
It did — twice — according to Collier County voting records that show he cast back-to-back provisional ballots in the Republican primary and general elections six years ago.
For Scott, the experience helped bolster his feeling that provisional ballots aren’t all bad, contrary to the fears of liberal-leaning voting-rights advocates who have bashed Scott’s push to purge the Florida voting rolls of noncitizens.
About 100 have been spotted and nearly half might have cast ballots. More than 500 flagged as potential noncitizens have shown they’re actual citizens entitled to vote.
Even if actual citizens wind up getting removed amid the noncitizen purge, Scott notes they can still cast provisional ballots. Those are tabulated after Election Day, assuming they’re not thrown out by a three-member canvassing board.
Collier County’s deputy election supervisor, Tim Durham, said about two-thirds of provisional ballots are generally counted in that county. Provisional ballots are rejected when it’s shown that the voter wasn’t lawfully
Still, because of doubts over absentee ballots, elections advocates say it’s best for citizens to cast regular ballots. And Scott’s dead-voter mix-up is a case study in how mistaken identities can trip up poll workers and voters.
Civil-rights groups are suing to stop the noncitizen purge, as is the U.S. Department of Justice. Florida, in turn, is suing the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for refusing to grant access to an immigration database that would make it easier for the state to spot noncitizens on the rolls.
Without the federal database, Florida used a state motor-vehicle database that has at times had outdated citizenship information. And that led the state to flag hundreds of actual citizens as potential noncitizens out of a list of 2,700.
The false positives have led nearly every county to halt the purge, except for Collier and neighboring Lee County. They’re removing voters from the rolls if they fail to respond to certified letters about their voting status within 60 days. So far, nine have been removed.
In addition to noncitizens, the state has been going forward with a longstanding policy of removing felons from voter rolls — about 7,000 this year. That was a major controversy in 2000, when elections officials hired an outside company that wrongly identified thousands of voters as felons and removed them from the rolls.
As a result, Florida now checks and double-checks court records and sends a detailed information packet to each county outlining the felons’ criminal history before they are removed from the rolls.
The state has also removed 51,309 dead voters so far this year and is about to remove 700 more.
Sometimes there can be false positives. That happened in 2006 after someone named Richard E. Scott died. He was born on Dec. 1, 1952 — just like Richard Lynn Scott, who was elected governor in 2010.
It appeared they were the same person. So when the living Scott walked in to cast his ballot in 2006, poll workers wanted to make sure there was no funny business.
“They didn’t ask me the next time I voted,” Scott said. “So I guess I’m not dead any longer.”