Denver resident Veronica Figoli, who immigrated from Venezuela in 1999, was among the legally registered voters in Colorado whose name was flagged for removal from voter rolls. The letter that she received said it was “extremely important” that she affirm her citizenship or withdraw from the voter rolls, which she said made her feel like a “second-class citizen.”
“To get this letter was kind of insulting,” said Figoli, who became a citizen in 2011 after what she said was a costly and stressful process. “There are so many steps and it is so confusing, and it’s expensive. And you are dealing with government and that makes you uncomfortable.” When she got the letter, she said, “I questioned myself.”
Figoli returned the required paperwork but said that others might be more fearful.
“I have a friend who said, ‘I wouldn’t do anything. . . . What if they revoke my citizenship?’ ” Figoli said. “The fear is there.”
Melinda Aguirre, who was born in Denver, also received a letter in English and Spanish questioning her citizenship. “I don’t even speak Spanish,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of [bull] what they are doing with certain people. My mom didn’t get this letter. My brother didn’t get this letter. Their last name is Roybal. But the Aguirres did.”
John Fund, a conservative columnist and author of “Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy,” said recent polls show that advocates of cleaning up the voter rolls have public opinion on their side and that they are being unfairly accused of racism. “It is very unfortunate that this issue has been used by groups who want to yell racism in a crowded political theater,” Fund said. “This is not the way to debate these issues.”
Still, the National Council of La Raza, which has been working with a network of groups to register Hispanic voters, was one of a dozen civil rights groups that said last week that voting rights are in a “state of emergency.”
“Part of our frustration is that the debate over the voter integrity process has become a polarized thing,” said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, the group’s director of immigration and national campaigns. “It’s almost like voters have become guilty until proven innocent.”
Ana Navarro, a Republican campaign consultant in Florida, said she doesn’t expect Hispanics there to be dissuaded from registering or voting.
“I don’t get the sense that the average voter is out there ready to set their hair on fire over the voting law changes,” she said in an e-mail. “Political campaigns are in full swing in Florida and there’s just too many substantive issues like the economy, high unemployment, Medicare, and housing, that Floridians are worried about. . . . Ready or not, whether you like or dislike the changes to the process, voting is upon us.”
Floridians start getting absentee ballots in a couple of weeks, and in most states, voter registration closes 30 days before the election.