Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office planned to continue scrubbing the election rolls, a spokesman said Friday. Gov. Rick Scott (R) ordered the search for potentially ineligible voters despite a Justice Department letter, objections from county elections officials and evidence that a disproportionate number are voters of color.
“We have an obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate and we are going to continue forward and do everything that we can legally do to make sure than ineligible voters cannot vote,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Detzner.
“We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot. We are not going to give up our efforts to make sure the voter rolls are accurate,” he said.
According to Reuters, polls show that Florida will be closely contested between Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the outcome could swing the November 6 election.
Florida 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, reports Fox News.
The state began looking for non-U.S. citizens on its voter rolls last year. An initial search found as many as 182,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens.
T. Christian Herren Jr., who leads the Justice Department voting section, told Detzner in a letter issued late Thursday that Florida’s plan to review the status of the 2,600 suspected non-citizens and purge them if the voters fail to prove citizenship appears to violate the 1964 Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act.
“The Florida Secretary of State is being recalcitrant,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project., a voting rights advocacy group that last month asked the Justice Department to investigate.
“He wants to move forward despite federal notice of illegality and supervisors of elections’ refusal to purge voters. He should just quit it,” she said, according to The Huff Post.
Meanwhile, Federal officials claim that the procedures the state is using to identify non-U.S. citizens has not been reviewed to make sure they are not discriminatory.
Supporters of Florida’s voter purge say it is aimed at clearing voter registration rolls of non-citizens.
At the same time critics call it part of longstanding Republican efforts to deter minorities and the poor, who tend to vote Democratic, from casting ballots.
The purge effort compares lists of registered voters with driver’s license records that contain information on citizenship. About 58 percent on the list were Hispanics – Florida’s largest ethnic immigrant population.
However, state election officials in Colorado and New Mexico, which are also the states with significant Latino populations, have also launched efforts to identify and purge suspected non-citizens from voter rolls.
“We all benefit when [voter] list maintenance occurs within the bounds of federal law,” said Myrna Perez, senior council at New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice. “Nobody benefits form inaccurate voter rolls. But it’s also certainly the case that you have wildly different things happening not only from state to state, but sometimes from county to county.”