Gov. Rick Scott’s administration created a mess by trying to get rid of noncitizen voters.
And President Barack Obama’s administration helped him do it.
First, Obama’s Department of Homeland Security stonewalled the state’s noncitizen voter hunt for almost nine months by refusing Florida access to an immigration database. Then, on Thursday, Obama’s Justice Department ordered the purge to halt, in part because time had run out.
Ironically, DOJ’s order cited the so-called “Motor Voter” law, which actually calls on states to purge ineligible voters. One former DOJ lawyer and critic, conservative J. Christian Adams, blogged that the former Obama appointee in charge of the voting section announced early on that it would ignore Motor Voter’s purge obligation.
“We have no interest in enforcing this provision of the law,” he quoted Julie Fernandes as saying in 2009 when she was an assistant attorney general. “It has nothing to do with increasing turnout, and we are just not going to do it.” She has since left DOJ.
So to recap: The feds delayed and then said “time expired” under a law it selectively enforces.
And it’s not the only selective reading by the feds.
A 1996 immigration crackdown law gives Florida the right to access the Homeland Security database known as SAVE, which stands for “Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements.” The federal law provides for “customer agencies to use SAVE for any legal purpose such as background investigations and voter registration.”
Mum’s the word
The words in that quote come from page 12 of Homeland Security’s own booklet on SAVE. So why won’t DHS heed the law and its own booklet and share its info?
It won’t say. “Talk to DOJ,” a Homeland Security official said in an email Friday
DOJ isn’t forthright, either.
Thursday afternoon, a spokesman for the voting section of the Justice Department said it wouldn’t comment on whether it would heed the call of liberal-leaning civil rights groups to stop Florida’s noncitizen voter purge. It also refused to answer questions about Motor Voter.
Hours later, about 8 p.m., DOJ sent its de facto cease-and-desist letter to Florida, and then forwarded the letter to a liberal blog.
Scott not blameless
None of this is to say the feds have reason to trust Florida or Scott or give them the benefit of the doubt, however.
Scott and his fellow Republicans tried to change elections rules with a new law, passed last year, that cracked down too hard on voter-registration rules and that removed Sunday-before-Election Day early voting when African Americans have flocked to the polls. A federal judge Thursday struck down major “onerous” parts of the law, which DOJ is fighting as well.
Also, Scott campaigned in 2010 for an Arizona-style immigration law that could require local police to start hunting illegal immigrants. Obama is challenging the law in court, and the Homeland Security Department probably isn’t too keen on giving Scott’s administration access to its immigrant database.
And overall, this former Confederate state has had a shameful history when it comes to race and voting. There’s a reason five Florida counties — Monroe, Hillsborough, Hardee, Hendry and Collier — are specifically targeted by the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects minorities.