Time is running short; under state law, it takes at least 60 days to remove a voter from the rolls -- a process cited by Scott and others as a crucial due-process safeguard against improper disqualifications -- and only 105 days remain until the general election as of Tuesday. Even if the state does come up with a set of suspicious registrations based on the Homeland Security database, it will then be up to the 67 independent, elected county supervisors to proceed, and there's a good chance they will decline to do so. Bucher, for example, was among the 64 supervisors who didn't go forward with the last purge effort. (She says her office was in the process of getting letters translated into Spanish when the Justice Department lawsuit halted the process.)
"It clearly is partisan and political, but actually, there is no purge going on at the moment," said Ion Sancho, the elections supervisor in Leon County, which includes the state capital of Tallahassee. "Unless the quality of the information we receive from the state gives us a reasonable belief that it is accurate, we don't actually have to do anything." Sancho, an independent who is harshly critical of Republican voting-restriction efforts, predicted he and many of his fellow clerks would simply refuse to implement voter removals out of concern the evidence wasn't sufficient.
Meanwhile, Florida may have reached an accommodation with the federal government, but the state is still embroiled in litigation with civil-rights groups who oppose the purge. A suit brought by a coalition that includes the Advancement Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Project Vote based on the initial purge effort is ongoing, said Judith Browne-Dianis, a co-director of the Advancement Project. The lawsuit charges that the purge violates the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act by disproportionately affecting minority voters. "The state is going to be closely monitored in how they use the list," Browne-Dianis said. "Florida is going to have to prove they're using their list in a non-discriminatory way."
In the end, the voter purge battle in Florida may have been fought to a draw. Some Democrats told me they believe it has created fear and confusion that will make some people decide voting isn't worth the hassle; others think the attack on minorities' rights will backfire instead by energizing them to vote. Meanwhile, legislative changes to other aspects of Florida's elections, such as shortening the early-voting period and requiring photo identification, may prove more consequential to turnout in the end.
And that may be 2012's most significant echo with the notorious 2000 presidential election in Florida: a purge that wasn't. One of the many supposed culprits of the 2000 mess was the state's attempt to remove convicted felons from the voter rolls. In a 2004 paper published in the Political Science Quarterly, Guy Stuart, a researcher at Harvard, got a hold of the voter file and analyzed the data to see if the felon purge might have swung the election.
"The list was deemed to have numerous errors in it, and I was able to identify some of those errors," he said -- such as the fact that African Americans and Hispanics are more likely than whites to share a few exceedingly common last names.
"But as is the case now, a lot of the supervisors simply refused to use the list to purge voters," Stuart said. "The bottom line was that the purge was unlikely to have affected the outcome of the election, because it was hardly implemented."