Since last week’s statement that he moved back to Arkansas “in July or August 2008,” there has been some rumbling that, assuming he is telling the truth, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Keet violated Florida law by casting an absentee ballot in Florida’s November 2008 election.
But by [sticking to his claim that he moved in July or August 2008], he’s made a prima facie case that he cast an illegal vote in Florida in November 2008. A Florida resident who moves is permitted to cast an absentee ballot only if he moves AFTER the registration books have closed in his new state. They were open in Arkansas through early October in 2008. Keet moved before the books closed, by his own, repeated, account.
This was my initial reaction to the story as well; at first glance, this would seem to violate Florida Statute § 101.663, which reads:
An elector registered in this state who moves his or her permanent residence to another state after the registration books in that state have closed shall be permitted to vote absentee in the county of his or her former residence for the offices of President and Vice President of the United States.
Fl. Stat. § 101.663 (2010) (emphasis added).
I added the emphasis to “permanent residence” in that statute because, well, the test for where your permanent residence is can be … vague. Generally speaking, it comes down to where you intend to stay for the foreseeable future, as gleaned from all sorts of stuff (where are you registered to vote, where do you get your mail, where do you have a driver’s license, etc.). It is, annoyingly, almost always a case-by-case issue, unless a statute specifies a triggering event that is dispositive of the residence question.
Rather than continue to speculate, I contacted the State of Florida’s Division of Elections and asked, “Generally speaking, if a person moved from Florida to Arkansas in August of 2008 with the intention of making his permanent home in Arkansas — even if his Florida home had not sold — would he be allowed to vote absentee in Florida if the Arkansas voter registration period was still open when he arrived in his new state?”
They responded quickly:
As long as that individual had not registered in the other state, he can continue to vote in Florida.
Okey doke, that makes sense, but it still doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. In a follow-up email, I mentioned that “I thought under 101.663 the person who changed his permanent residence to another could only vote in Florida if he moved after the voter rolls in the new state were closed.”
Another quick reply from Florida:
We have no way of knowing if an individual is only residing in another state temporarily unless they send us a request to be removed from our rolls or if that state provides us with their registration in the new state. There are specific procedures to remove an individual from our rolls. You can find those in s.98.075, FS.
The referenced statue has a subsection entitled “PROCEDURES FOR REMOVAL,” which lays out the steps that the State of Florida must take “[i]f the supervisor receives notice or information pursuant to subsections (4)-(6)” that the voter is no longer qualified to vote in Florida. Subsections (4)-(6) pertain to (4) adjudication of mental incapacity, (5) felony conviction, and (6) other bases for ineligibility. The other-bases provision explains:
(6) OTHER BASES FOR INELIGIBILITY.–If the department or supervisor receives information other than from the sources identified in subsections (2)-(5) that a registered voter does not meet the age requirement pursuant to s. 97.041, is not a United States citizen, is a fictitious person, or has listed a residence that is not his or her legal residence, the supervisor shall adhere to the procedures set forth in subsection (7) prior to the removal of a registered voter’s name from the statewide voter registration system.
And there’s our answer: before Keet would have been removed from the voter rolls in Florida (and, therefore, ineligible to vote in Florida), the state of Florida would have had to hear from Keet that he had moved his permanent residence to Arkansas or from the State of Arkansas that Keet had registered to vote here. Short of those things happening, there simply was nothing that would have triggered removal under Fl. Stat. § 98.075 (2010).
Even with the question answered, I somehow doubt that this will be the last we hear of the non-issue.