PolitiFact FL: TikTok video falsely links removal of Florida voters and abortion amendment
WLRN has partnered with PolitiFact to fact-check Florida politicians. The Pulitzer Prize-winning team seeks to present the true facts, unaffected by agenda or biases.
Abortion rights supporters in Florida are hopeful that a question will land on the November ballot that will let voters ensure abortion rights. But if you believe a TikTok video, election officials have conspired to prevent passage by kicking Democrats off voter rolls.
The TikTok user said Florida voter roll data showed that "almost a million people, mostly Democrats, have been kicked off the voter roll."
The speaker, who did not answer our message, said in the video that a half-million Democrats were "purged" from the voter roll "because they know Florida women are about to put abortion rights (in) on the Constitution in 2024."
A TikTok user tagged us in the comments to verify whether this is true, so we investigated. (We have a separate partnership with TikTok to analyze videos flagged as potential misinformation.)
Our review shows county officials have removed about 1 million people from voting lists, and about half were Democrats.
Why? It’s part of their annual work to comply with state law. We found no evidence that voters were removed to thwart a potential question on the November ballot to protect abortion rights.
The abortion question will appear on the ballot if organizers collect the required nearly 900,000 signatures by Feb. 1, which appears to have been met, and the Florida Supreme Court approves the ballot language. A University of North Florida poll in November showed strong support.
Florida routinely updates voter rolls before federal elections
The TikTok video shows voter registration data posted by Brian Beute, a candidate for Seminole County elections supervisor. Beute cited state data showing that near the end of 2023, Florida had 13.5 million active registered voters, down from 14.5 million in 2022. That included a decline of about 153,000 Republicans and 467,000 Democrats, while the rest were largely unaffiliated with a party. The decline happened despite state population growth.
But that’s not the complete voter registration list, because it does not include inactive voters.
"Inactive voters are still registered voters," said Mark Ard, Florida Division of Elections spokesperson. "Inactive voters can’t be removed until after two general election cycles of inactivity because of federal and state law."
Inactivity means not voting or having any contact with the elections office.
"Basically they need to fog a mirror for us — call us to request a ballot, show up at a polling place to vote," said Broward County Elections Supervisor Joe Scott.
New election laws changed voter removal processes
The decline of 1 million active voters was more than in recent years.
"It is unusual to have this many voters be removed from the voter rolls in one year," said Mark Earley, Leon County elections supervisor. "But it is due to election law changes over the last three legislative cycles."
Florida, like all states, focused on updating voter rolls in odd-numbered years because of federal law that prohibits most removals within 90 days of a federal election. With primaries and a general election, there are few windows for this to happen.
In 2022, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed S.B. 524, which required county election supervisors to update the voter rolls annually. In 2023, DeSantis signed S.B. 7050, another elections bill that changed how election officials remove voters who have died, been convicted of felonies or moved.
The recent law shortened the process for providing voters with notice of removal.
Before that law passed, if voters did not answer a final notice within 30 days to confirm they remained at the address and the notice didn’t bounce back, those voters stayed on the active list. Earley said that resulted in a backlog of voters who had moved out of the county or state but remained active registered voters, with no easy way to correct it.
Under the new law, voters who don’t respond are moved to the inactive list. Then, if the voters have no contact with the elections office over two federal election cycles, those voters are removed.
It did not surprise officials that the active-voter list declined by far more Democrats than Republicans. Democrats tend to be younger and more mobile and are therefore more likely to be removed from the voter rolls, said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida political science professor.
However, the number of active voters will likely rise as Floridians register or update their status before November.
A TikTok user said, "Almost a million people, mostly Democrats, have been kicked off the voter roll here in Florida" because of a question about abortion that could appear on the 2024 ballot.
There is an element of truth, because almost 1 million people were removed from the active-voter list, and about half were Democrats. However, the post misleads about the reason.
County election officials must follow state law to remove voters from the active list, and voters on the inactive list are teed up for removal years later. A question could be placed on the November ballot to protect abortion rights, but there is no evidence that this influenced election officials who were updating voter rolls.
We rate this statement Mostly False.
- Tik Tok, Dec. 15, 2023
- WLRN, Groups putting abortion on the Florida ballot believe they have the signatures they need, Dec. 19, 2023
- Florida Senate, CS/SB 7050: Elections, 2023
- Florida Senate,SB 524, 2022
- Brian Beute, candidate for Seminole County Supervisor of Elections, X post, Dec. 13, 2023
- Florida Division of Elections, Voter Registration - By Party Affiliation, Dec. 13, 2023
- Florida Division of Elections, Voter Registration - New and Removed, Dec. 13, 2023
- Florida Division of Elections, Abortion amendment, 2024PolitiFact, Donald Trump distorts Florida elections bill in attacking Ron DeSantis, May 3, 2023
- Florida Bulldog, Election integrity or voter suppression? Florida has 1 million fewer voters in 2023, Dec. 21, 2023
- News Service of Florida, Florida Senate passes controversial elections changes; The bill would crack down on voter registration groups and ensure Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn't have to resign from office to run for president, April 26, 2023
- UNF poll, Nov. 30, 2023
- U.S. Census, U.S. Population Trends Return to Pre-Pandemic Norms as More States Gain Population, Dec. 19, 2023
- Email interview, Mark Ard, spokesperson for the Florida Division of Elections, Dec. 21, 2023
- Telephone interview, Mark Earley, Leon County Supervisor of Elections, Dec. 21, 2023
- Telephone interview, Joe Scott, Broward Supervisor of Elections, Dec. 21, 2023
- Telephone interview, Roberto Rodriguez, Miami-Dade Supervisor of Elections deputy, Dec. 21, 2023
- Telephone interview, Michael McDonald, University of Florida political science professor, Dec. 21, 2023
- Email interview, Paul Donnelly, spokesperson for Sarasota County Supervisor of elections Ron Turner, Dec. 21, 2023