Florida Sues Federal Government Over Voter Purge

The Justice Department set the stage Monday to sue Florida over its effort to purge the voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens — just after Gov. Rick Scott announced that his administration was filing suit against the federal government in connection with the same initiative.

The controversy is positioning Republican Gov. Scott's administration against state Democrats in a deeply partisan debate that is sure to excite both sides of the electorate ahead of November's election. Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Florida and U.S. governments both fired the legal equivalent of live rounds Monday two weeks after the state defied a U.S. Department of Justice order to stop trying to purge as many as 182,000 people it suspects are non-citizens from voter rolls, reports The Huff Post.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced that he will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to move forward with his controversial attempt to purge the voter rolls in his state of ineligible voters.

“I have a job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters,” Scott told Fox News on Monday.

“We’ve been asking for the Department of Homeland Security’s database, SAVE, for months, and they haven’t given it to us. So this afternoon, we will be filing a lawsuit, the secretary of State of Florida, against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database,” he said.

“We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.”

Yahoo reports that the Justice Department has sent a letter to the Florida Secretary of State regarding informing the state that DOJ will seek court action to stop the purging of voter rolls in the State.

“It appears that Florida has initiated a new program for systematic voter removal which may ultimately target more than 180,000 registered voters,” the letter from Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Tom Perez noted.

“Your program has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters,” the letter said.

Perez in his letter also notes, “Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE program can verify naturalized and derived United States citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers and where necessary, the underlying documentation.”

The Department of Justice last week demanded the state to stop the voter-roll purge, noting that it violated the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and was reliant on faulty Department of Motor Vehicle records to determine who is eligible to vote, writes The Hill.

The Scott administration responded with a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder that says it would continue the voter-roll purge, and is now seeking the DHS federal database as a part of that push.

“For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voter rolls,” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in the lawsuit.

“We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer. We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Tea Party favorite, ordered the purge of suspected non-U.S. citizens from state voter rolls. Accusations have flown that the purge is a Republican-led effort to disqualify minority voters likely to support President Barack Obama in November. Others say Obama’s Justice Department has intentionally blocked the purge for political purposes.

The Justice Department letter accuses the state of violating two laws, first of which, the Voting Rights Act, was put in place in 1965 in order to protect black and Latino voters who had faced poll taxes, literacy tests, alternative voting times or facilities.

The second law, the National Voter Registration Act, requires states to make efforts to maintain accurate voter rolls and forbids states from removing voters from their rolls within 90 days of a federal election.

Since Florida holds a congressional primary in August and the presidential election in November, the 90-day window began May 16, according to the Justice Department.

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