The State of Florida, likely to be a key battleground in the 2012 elections, is hastily undertaking a purge of voter rolls using methods that seem to be unusually clumsy and inaccurate.

Hmmm. Pre-election voting purge in Florida. Lot of errors. Where have I heard that before?

Yeah, just before the 2000 elections, Florida launched a purge aimed at removing convicted felons from the rolls. It was a mess, as WaPo’s Robert Pierre reported in 2001:

The Tampa residents were among hundreds, perhaps thousands, of non-felons in Florida who civil rights lawyers contend were wrongly prevented from voting in the Nov. 7 election after state election officials and a private contractor bungled an attempt to cleanse felons from voter rolls.

The effort was so riddled with errors that a more precise tally will probably never be possible. But it is clear that at least 2,000 felons whose voting rights had been automatically restored in other states were kept off the rolls and, in many cases, denied the right to vote.

As I recall, 2,000 is a very low estimate of how many people were wrongly removed from the rolls in this particular botched purge.

So how’s the current purge–this time focused on identifying non-citizens–going? Not so hot, as the New York Times‘ Lizette Alvarez reports:

The state was found to be using a flawed process to pinpoint noncitizens on the voter rolls by relying on an outdated driver’s license database. Some of the people on an initial list of 2,700 possible noncitizens sent to county election supervisors were either naturalized citizens or were born in the United States.

Election supervisors were asked to send letters to these voters, requiring them to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days, or their names would be dropped from the registration roll. In recent days, some of the supervisors had expressed concern over the validity of the state’s search.

The purge is bringing back bad memories in Florida, all right:

The push to crack down on the way Floridians vote, and how they register to vote, is viewed by some as an effort to single out Democratic voters, many of them black and Hispanic. Florida has been accused in past elections of unfairly trying to remove from the rolls former felons who are eligible to vote.

The new scrub of registered voters is no different, said Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

“It’s a purging process that is based on what the state already acknowledges to be inaccurate information,” Mr. Simon said. “It really raises questions as to whether or not this is yet another partisan effort to scrub the voting rolls. We know it’s inaccurate because people from as far away as Pensacola to Miami have come forward to say, ‘I am a U.S. citizen. I am eligible to vote.’ ”

Last year Florida enacted legislation called for by Gov. Rick Scott to “reform” elections by reducing the early voting period and also making it harder to vote for people who had moved since the last election (a measure apparently aimed at students).

Yep, nothing like an impending presidential election to get Florida Republicans all interested in election administration. Too bad they seem to be so incompetent about it.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.