Republicans search for voter fraud, find little

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DENVER -- Republican election officials who promised to root out voter fraud so far are finding little evidence of a widespread problem.

State officials in key presidential battleground states have found only a tiny fraction of the illegal voters they initially suspected existed. Searches in Colorado and Florida have yielded numbers that amount to less than one-tenth of 1 percent of all registered voters in either state.

Democrats say the searches waste time and, worse, could disenfranchise eligible voters who are swept up in the checks.

"I find it offensive that I'm being required to do more than any other citizen to prove that I can vote," said Samantha Meiring, 37, a Colorado voter and South African immigrant who became a U.S. citizen in 2010. Meiring was among 3,903 registered voters who received letters last month from the Colorado Secretary of State's office questioning their right to vote.

Especially telling, critics of the searches say, is that the efforts are focused on crucial swing states from Colorado to Florida, where both political parties and the presidential campaigns are watching every vote. And in Colorado, most of those who received letters are either Democrats or unaffiliated with a party. It's a similar story in Florida, too.

Republicans argue that voting fraud is no small affair, even if the cases are few, when some elections are decided by hundreds of votes.

Last year, Colorado Secretary of State Scott Gessler, a Republican, estimated that 11,805 noncitizens were on the rolls.

But the number kept getting smaller.

After his office sent letters to 3,903 registered voters questioning their status, the number of noncitizens now stands at 141, based on checks using a federal immigration database. Of those 141, Gessler said 35 have voted in the past. The 141 are .004 percent of the state's nearly 3.5 million voters.

Even those numbers could be fewer.

The Denver clerk and recorder's office, which had records on eight of the 35 voters who cast ballots in the past, did its own verification and found that those eight people appear to be citizens.

Florida's search began after the state's Division of Elections said that as many as 180,000 registered voters weren't citizens. Florida eventually narrowed its list of suspected noncitizens to 2,600 and found that 207 of them weren't citizens, based on its use of the federal database called SAVE, or the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements. The system tracks who is a legal resident eligible to receive government benefits.

Of the 2,600 initially marked as possible noncitizens, about 38 percent were unaffiliated voters and 40 percent were Democrats, according to an analysis by The Miami Herald.

The state has more than 11.4 million registered voters, so the 207 amounts to .001 percent of the voter roll.

In North Carolina, the nonpartisan state elections board last year sent letters to 637 suspected noncitizens after checking driver's license data. Of those, 223 responded showing proof they were citizens, and 79 acknowledged they weren't citizens and were removed from the rolls.