Interview with Florida Governor Rick Scott

Interview with Florida Governor Rick Scott

By John King, USA - June 12, 2012

KING: Florida is suing the federal government, and the federal government is suing Florida over who can cast a ballot in the critical battleground state. At issue, Florida's controversial attempt to purge illegal voters from the system. The state says it was denied access to a federal immigration database. So it used DMV records to put together a list of 2,600 voters who need to prove their citizenship. Eighty-seven non-citizens have been found so far. Five hundred people have been identified as legal.

But the attorney general, Eric Holder, says the purge is illegal. He says the department is done writing letters to the state of Florida, and it's time now for action.


ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have done all we can in trying to reason with people in Florida through the provision of these letters. We are now prepared to go to court.


KING: Florida Governor Rick Scott live with us from Tampa. Governor, if you heard the attorney general there, he's saying essentially you're being unreasonable. How would you answer that?

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: John, here's -- my job is to make sure that noncitizens don't dilute the legitimate vote of a U.S. citizen. We know that there's -- we did that, as you said, that small sample.

We know there's approximately 100 individuals that are registered to vote that aren't citizens. Over 50 have voted in elections. The right database to use is the homeland security database. For whatever reason, they've elected not to give it to us. We have a right to it. It's supposed to be used for voter registration. It doesn't make any sense to me.

So we're trying to do the right thing. From my standpoint, I want to work with homeland security, justice to make sure that U.S. citizens' vote is not diluted. We're doing the right thing.

I can't imagine anybody not wanting to make sure that noncitizens don't dilute legitimate U.S. citizens' vote. Look, this isn't a partisan issue. This isn't a Democrat issue, Republican issue, independent issue. I've not talked to one person in our state that says they think that noncitizens should be able to illegally vote in our races.

KING: You say it's not a partisan issue. I want you to listen here to Senator Dick Durbin. He's a Democrat of Illinois. He's commented about other states doing this, as well, but he's talking specifically about Florida here. He says you're up to something that he would call nefarious. Listen.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Of the 2,700 names on this list, 87 percent were minorities. The overwhelming majority of people on the list were registered independents and Democrats. Perhaps more to the point, almost all the people on the state's list of suspected noncitizens were actually American citizens.


KING: Answer the senator there, Governor.

SCOTT: You know, what it proves is why wouldn't homeland security give us the database that we're entitled to so we can do this the right way, make sure that no one ever questions whether it's, you know...

KING: Without that database, are you doing it the wrong way? Without that database, though, are you doing it the wrong way? SCOTT: You know, John, we're doing what -- we're doing what we started -- what we could do. We started it, we used a sample with 2,600 names because it's the only way we could do it.

I've got to make sure. I know people have registered. We have evidence people are registered to vote that are noncitizens. They're voting. I can't sit here and allow noncitizens to dilute the vote of legitimate U.S. citizens.

So is the right way to do it the database from homeland security? Absolutely. But we started with ours, and we need to get the homeland security database.

KING: Is there a risk, though, you mentioned the 50 people you have verified they're not citizens and they have voted in past elections, and that's illegal. Governor, you have every right to crack down on those people. But is there a risk if you use your way, which the government says is a flawed way -- they also say it's illegal and too late -- that as you identify people, you identify some people as questionable, and they don't take the steps necessary to get themselves cleared, do you worry that, if you find 50 who have no right to vote -- they're not citizens -- there might also be 50, 55, 60, or 70 who are citizens, and simply don't get re-verified, and they lose their right to vote?

SCOTT: Well, they don't lose their right to vote, John. What happens is they've got 30 days to respond to a letter. If they don't, there's a public notice in the paper. And if they went to the -- to vote, they would just vote on a provisional ballot, and we would make sure that, if they were a U.S. citizen, they would have the right to vote.

No one has lost the right to vote. No U.S. citizen is being kicked off any voter rolls. There's no purge going on. We're simply trying to make sure that the legitimate right -- I mean, think about it, this is a basic right of an American -- their right is not diluted by somebody that doesn't have the right to vote because they're a noncitizen. That's a crime.

KING: How could it be, either the senator's statistics are wrong or, in doing it the way you're doing it, you come up with 87 percent minorities, the overwhelming majority, he said, registered independents and Democrats. You live in a big state. I've visited during many campaigns, including yours for governor. How is it that, if you're going through this in a fair way, that's happening?

SCOTT: Well, the right way of doing it is the way we've been trying to do it. We've been asking for the database from homeland security for nine months.

KING: I understand that. But is the senator right, though, in the way you're doing it? I understand the point about if you had the database it would be easier. The way you're doing it, you're getting 87 percent minorities?

SCOTT: We did -- we did it -- we did it based on the database we had from the motor vehicle. We took 2,600 names. We did the process. First off, we know based on that that we have people that have registered to vote that aren't entitled to. They're noncitizens. They voted. That impacts races. We can't allow that to happen.

I'm supposed to enforce the laws of the land. The law of Florida is that if you're a noncitizen, you don't vote in these races.

KING: I understand all those points you're making, Governor. My question is if you did it your way, how did you come up with a list that had 87 percent minorities and a majority of Democrats and independents? It doesn't sound like it's done fairly, shall we say, or randomly.

SCOTT: We -- we I don't know how he came up with his numbers. But I can tell you, we did it based on the only data we could use, because homeland security elected for whatever reason not to give us that database that we're entitled to, that is supposed to be used for voter registration. We tried to do things the right way.

But we've got to make sure that noncitizens don't dilute the vote of legitimate citizens. It's not -- it's illegal. It's a crime. Plus, your vote is important.

KING: Governor Rick Scott, appreciate your time tonight. It's a contentious issue. Watch this one as it plays out in the courts. You're suing them; they're suing you.

SCOTT: I'll see you down here for the -- for the convention. It will be fun.

KING: Looking forward to the convention; looking forward to many other trips to Florida. A hundred and forty-seven days we've got to go, Governor. Your state could decide it all. We'll see you a lot between now and then. Thanks for your time tonight.

SCOTT: Good bye. 

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