A secretary of state used algorithms to suppress Florida voters in 2012, Daniel Smith, a UF political science professor, said Tuesday night.
He said Kenneth Detzner, the current Florida secretary of state, helped single out legal citizens who were born outside the U.S. Letters were then sent to thousands of people, he said.
The message: Prove your citizenship or be removed from the voter registry.
During a presentation at Santa Fe College, Smith joined UF history associate professor Paul Ortiz to discuss similar issues of voter suppression in the past and present.
Santa Fe’s Democracy Commitment hosted the presentation in the Santa Fe Fine Arts Hall from 7 p.m. to about 9 p.m.
“In a perfect world I wouldn’t have to be up here to give a talk because voter suppression would be a thing of the past, but history likes to repeat itself,” said Smith.
Ortiz said race, naturalization and citizenship are still at the core of America’s voter suppression issue.
“When the concept of citizenship was first articulated in the U.S., it was articulated on racial lines,” he said.
Along with one’s citizenship, the voting systems allows votes to be rejected for a variety of reasons.
Smith said voters, especially minorities, who use an absentee ballot are more likely to have their vote rejected.
If the signature on an absentee ballot doesn’t match the signature on someone’s voter registration, the vote is rejected, Smith said.
“These are very subtle forms of disenfranchisement,” he said.
Using data collected from Alachua County absentee ballots in 2012, Smith found that a majority of the rejected votes correlated with signature misidentification.
Young and old voters are the most likely to have their votes rejected from absentee ballots, he said, because their signatures often change after registering to vote.
Stephanie Lima, a 21-year-old Sante Fe business sophomore, said she is shocked that absentee ballots are so unreliable.
“It was prettying mind-blowing,” she said.
Smith encouraged the audience of about 50 people to arm themselves with knowledge and avoid voter suppression.
“You have to be proactive to be an informed voter,” he said.