Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A coalition of citizens and a Hispanic advocacy group, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, have filed a federal suit to stop Governor Rick Scott’s purging of “non-citizens” from the voter rolls.
According to the News Service of Florida, the lawsuit says the state didn’t get the green light for the project from the U.S. Justice Department, which must preclear any voting law changes for five counties in Florida under the Voting Rights Act.
Still, the voter purge is heavily targeted towards Miami-Dade County, which isn’t covered by the preclearance provision under the Voting Rights Act. State officials have argued that approval is unnecessary; the Justice Department has already begun looking into the initiative.
“This is precisely why Congress has re-enacted, and why we continue to need, the Voting Rights Act — to prevent state officials from interfering with the constitutional rights of minorities,” ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon said in a statement announcing the suit. “We now look to the courts to stop the Scott administration from assaulting democracy by denying American citizens the right to vote.”
Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner have defended the purge, which relies on a state database of driver’s license information to find likely non-citizens. Those names are then sent to the supervisors of elections, some of whom have contended the scrub is illegal, or at least faulty, and some of them have refused to carry it out.
Detzner’s office said it would review the lawsuit.
In continuing to push for the purge, the plaintiffs say, the state is making it more likely someone will be wrongly removed.
“Defendant is proceeding to implement the new voter purge procedures notwithstanding: 1) widely-reported information showing that the targeting procedure is highly inaccurate; 2) strong opposition from numerous Florida county Supervisors of Elections; and 3) formal notice by the United States Department of Justice that Defendant’s implementation of the procedures appear to violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,” the lawsuit says.
The voter purge list targets minorities and traditional Democratic voters more so than whites and Republicans, according to an analysis from CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald. All 67 elections supervisors said Friday they will not move forward with the purge, for now, because they don’t trust the accuracy of the list of potential non-citizens put together by the state.
The fight between the state and the federal government is just getting started. The Department of Justice demanded the state stop the voter roll purge being that it was inside of 90 days before a federal election, which isn’t allowed.
The state fought back saying it would continue the voter roll purge, even with unreliable information, until the federal government gave the state access to a citizenship and immigration database operated by the Department of Homeland Security.
Scott and his subordinates have said the purge is to prevent voter fraud.
Florida currently has around 11.4 million eligible voters. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a total of 178 cases of voter fraud sent to its department since 2000. Out of those cases, a total of 11 arrests have been made.