VOTER PURGE

Feds: Florida’s voter purge violates federal law

 

The Justice Department says Florida never submitted the new “citizenship list maintenance practices” to them for approval.

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

The U.S. government wants to block Florida from resuming its purge of suspected noncitizens from the voter rolls, saying it would violate federal law.

The Justice Department filed papers in U.S. District Court in Tampa accusing the state of ignoring a requirement that it first obtain approval for such action because five Florida counties are subject to federal pre-clearance of changes in voting procedures: Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe.

The removal of noncitizens in a presidential election year has mushroomed into a major controversy, with Democrats and left-leaning voter advocacy groups accusing Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of using the purge to suppress voter turnout in a state widely seen as a must-win for both presidential candidates.

At issue is whether Florida’s on-again, off-again purge of noncitizens is subject to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The feds say it is. The state says it isn’t.

The federal claim was filed Friday in a case brought by the ACLU of Florida and Lawyers Committee for Justice Under Law, seeking to halt any more purging of voter rolls. The case is before U.S. District Judge James Whittemore.

Directing its argument at Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Justice Department attorney John Albert Russ IV argued: “The Secretary of State cannot now allege that the voting practice he initiated (and that the covered counties implemented at his direction) is completely abandoned, because the change has already affected voters in the covered counties. The implementation of these new practices and procedures without preclearance violates Section 5.”

The feds say Florida never submitted the new “citizenship list maintenance practices” for approval, even though the state did submit an unrelated change for review in 2011: the use of Social Security numbers to verify that voters had died.

The state says it plans to resume the removal process, with more recent and reliable citizenship data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. But state laws requiring notices and hearings for any suspected noncitizens make it unlikely that the program can move forward before the Nov. 6 general election.

It’s the second time in recent weeks that the federal government has sought court intervention to stop the voter purge. Gov. Scott’s administration prevailed June 28 when U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that a law preventing systematic removal of voters from the rolls less than 90 days before a federal election did not include noncitizens.

Times researcher Natalie Watson contributed to this report.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Read more Political Currents stories from the Miami Herald

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category