A 91-year-old Florida World War II veteran who won a Bronze Star was told by the state of Florida he must prove his citizenship or he will be removed from voter rolls.
According to The Miami Herald, Bill Internicola said he was "flabbergasted" when he received a letter from Broward Supervisor of Elections, saying he must prove his citizenship to vote.
According to The Miami Herald, the letter informed Internicola that the supervisor's office received information "from the State of Florida that you are not a United States citizen; however you are registered to vote."
Fox News reports that the letter is part of a Florida program to purge non-citizens from the voting rolls before election. The Miami Herald reports the state had compiled an initial list of more than 182,000 people it said were non-U.S. citizens who appeared on voter rolls. But state officials whittled the list down to 2,600 and forwarded the names to the counties.
Internicola was on the list, and he received a letter asking him to provide evidence of his citizenship. According to The Miami Herald, the list was dominated by Democrats, Independents and Hispanics. The largest number of people on the list were from Miami-Dade, which has the largest concentration of foreign-born residents. The Miami Herald notes that an effort to remove names from Broward's voting rolls draws attention because it is the most Democratic county in the state with more than 500,000 registered Democrats who could play a pivotal role in the outcome of the presidential election.
Internicola's case led to six Democratic members of Congress asking Florida Gov. Rick Scott to stop the program on the grounds that it was riddled with inaccuracies. Rep. Ted Deutch and Rep. Alcee Hastings, cited Internicola as example of what they described as a "misguided" program.
According to Sun Sentinel, Hastings said: "It’s sloppy, it’s a hurried voter purge and it could have major consequences for Florida’s election in November."
Fox News reports that Internicola was born in Brooklyn and is a lifelong Democrat and voter. He served as Army medic in World War II in the 75th Infantry division and won a Bronze Star for his role in the Battle of Bulge. He also received the Legion of Honor for his service in France.
According to The Miami Herald, he sent his army discharge papers as proof of his citizenship.
Internicola is not the only World War II veteran who was told to prove his citizenship or be removed from voter rolls. A resident of University Village, Archibald Bowyer, 91, a Navy corpsman in World War II was also tagged a non-citizen. According to Bowyer, he was born in Canada but has lived in the U.S. since he was 2 years old and became a citizen after his father naturalized. He said he has lived in Tampa for more than 30 years and has voted "every time there was reason to."
Bowyer did not respond to the letter he received from state officials because his wife died at that time and he was busy. He said: "I had a lot to do, and I just glanced at it. I didn't send it back to them."
But officials determined that he was a legitimate voter and he was not removed from the roll.
Tampa Bay Online reports that federal authorities weighed in on Thursday, demanding that Florida halt the program. The U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to Florida authorities who complained that they can't get access to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security database of non-citizens to make the process more accurate.
Tampa Bay Online reports that in spite of the intervention of federal authorities, Gov. Rick Scott said on Thursday that he remains committed to the program. He said: "It's the right thing to do to check and make sure. We want to make sure that people register to vote, they have the right to vote... but we don't want people voting in elections that aren't entitled to vote."
But federal officials say that the purge procedures the state is using has not been reviewed. The Justice Department also said that removing voters from the rolls less than 90 days before a federal election violates federal law. The letter gave Florida until Wednesday to tell federal authorities if they plan to stop the purge