Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The election year fight by Governor Rick Scott to purge voter rolls of “non-citizens” is in trouble of spiraling Florida into a similar situation the state faced in the disastrous presidential election in 2000.
Scott said over the weekend that the state would defy a Department of Justice order to stop the voter roll purge he ordered earlier this year. But Monday, the two largest counties in the state said they would side with the Justice Department.
According to CNN, the supervisors of elections in Broward County, Dr. Brenda Snipes, and Miami-Dade County, Penelope Townsley, said both counties will immediately stop the removal of any voters from the county rolls.
The Justice Department said the election year purge violates multiple federal laws including Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The state’s effort has already come under fire from local election supervisors who belong to both political parties, as well as Democratic members of Congress and voting rights groups.
Earlier this year state officials sent to local election officials a list of more than 2,600 voters and asked supervisors to start the process to remove them from the rolls.
Critics have charged the purge unfairly targets Hispanics, African-Americans, and Democrats in the state.
Some critics have said the voter roll purge was an attempt to impact voter turnout. Historically, if voter turnout is high, as it was in 2008, Democrats have a much higher likelihood of winning. Conversely, if voter turnout is lower, Republicans typically perform much better in elections.
Scott and Republicans in the legislature said the measures were needed to combat voter fraud in the state. However, actual cases of voter fraud across the state and country are rare.
Currently, there are just three voter fraud-type cases pending in Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office, and all three relate to the Third Party Voter Registration limits passed by the legislature, which was overturned Thursday.
A fight over purged rolls isn’t anything new to Florida. Thousands of eligible voters were removed from rolls in the months leading up to the 2000 election. During that purge, the voters were erroneously listed as felons, which prevented them from voting, according to National Public Radio. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris headed up the 2000 voter roll purge.
As Tim Russert of NBC News famously said about presidential elections, “It’s all about Florida.” In 2012, it could be another long night for Florida elections officials as a court battle looms over Governor Scott’s plans to scrub the voter rolls.