Florida defends voter roll 'purge' after protest from DOJ
June 1st, 2012
10:19 AM ET
2 years ago

Florida defends voter roll 'purge' after protest from DOJ

(CNN) - Florida's proposed elimination of non-U.S. citizens from its voter rolls is necessary to preventing voter fraud, a spokesman for the state's Division of Elections said Friday after the U.S. Department of Justice called into question the legality of the action.

The so-called "voter purge" would remove names from Florida's voter rolls months before the 2012 presidential election, when Florida will play a key role as a battleground state with a large chunk of electoral votes.

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In a statement, Chris Cate said the decision to remove names from the list was essential to preventing non-citizens from casting ballots illegally.

"The Department of State has a duty under both state and federal laws to ensure that Florida's voter registration rolls are current and accurate. Therefore, identifying ineligible voters is something we are always doing," Cate wrote.

He added that the action was not meant to prevent minority voters from voting.

"The political party and race of the potential non-citizens is not a factor at all in our process," Cate wrote. "We are only concerned about identifying ineligible voters and making sure they can't cast a ballot."

Florida's move to remove non-eligible voters from its voter lists began after the state's Republican Gov. Rick Scott pressed the state to identify non-U.S. citizens who had registered to vote illegally. Using information from the state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the state identified more than 100,000 names of non-eligible voters that could potentially be on the lists illegally.

Critics say the plan unfairly targets minorities, and paint it as an attempt to dissuade typically Democratic voters from going to the polls.

The Department of Justice said in a letter Thursday that Florida failed to properly notify the federal government of their decision, writing the unilateral move violated provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"Our records do not reflect that these changes affecting voting have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," T. Christian Herren, head of the voting section of the civil rights division, wrote.

Five counties in Florida are covered by the Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation that gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington.

In his letter, Herren also said the move appeared to violate a provision that prevents states from removing voters from rolls less than 90 days ahead of an election. Florida will hold a primary vote on August 14.

Cate said his department had not yet thoroughly reviewed the Department of Justice letter, but that they were "firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot."

"We provided information to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security yesterday, and have been doing so for nearly nine months, in hopes that the federal government would help us identify ineligible voters. While this isn't a response from DHS as to why they haven't provided us access to their data, at least we know the federal government knows we take ineligible voters on the voter rolls seriously. We hope the federal government will recognize the importance of accurate voter rolls and support our efforts," Cate wrote.

CNN en Español's Adriana Hauser and CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Also see:

Obama campaign launches assault on Romney's Massachusetts record

Obama campaign releases third set of Spanish ads

Gonzales says Romney must make personal connection to Hispanics

Wisconsin guv up in third straight poll


Filed under: Florida
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. Natalie in MN

    Oh sure, nothing smells funny here!

    June 1, 2012 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  2. S. Washington, LN Comment

    "Florida, Florida, Florida", a CNN reporter says. Big (apple) shot New York against sunny (orange) Florida. Washington apples and California grapes, anyone?

    June 1, 2012 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  3. ST

    Every and each individual has the right to exercise their right to vote. We can not fight for democracy for other countries to be allowed to vote, let women drive like men, and yet we can not exercise the same to our own people. Every citizen should be proud to the vote they cast, whether they win or not, but should count themselves they have also participated in making democracy.

    June 1, 2012 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  4. go

    fixed election

    June 1, 2012 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    The state of Florida is punishing people without giving them due process, or a hearing. They have also passed a flawed law that does not protect the innocent. The law has no checks and balances.

    June 1, 2012 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. rs

    Fairness: 1, GOP: 0

    June 1, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. MaryM

    Florida breaks the voting rights act law again
    "Our records do not reflect that these changes affecting voting have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act,"
    Vote these repubs out of office Now.

    June 1, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  8. george of the jungle

    so much BS they did this not that long ago. and we ended up with bush by 500+ votes They are already screwing up and takeing us citizens off roll. And gee most are ones with and ethnic surname. Gollie! can you believe that? Obama 2012

    June 1, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  9. Steven Colo

    How could DMV records be used? This would lump those out of state, with those who do not own vehicles. It sounds like a blatant ploy to remove the poor from voter lists.

    June 1, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  10. Wake up people

    While I believe only citizens should vote, all of these changes implemented by the republican party scare me. I HAVE NOT forgotten the 2000 election, and I see the same thing happening all over again. There is no way these Super Pacs are going to spend millions and not cheat to ensure a win. The American people for some reason don't understand you can't fix 8 years of mess ups in 3 years. They also don't seem to understand the POTUS needs the help of Congress and without it, he can't do anything. Thank you President Obama you tried your best but this country neither wants or respects you in the Oval Office. And I personally don't see you winning because they WILL cheat.

    OBAMA 2012!
    I hope!

    June 1, 2012 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  11. Doc_Hollywood

    If they were so concerned with voter fraud, why haven't they done this before? During Jeb's tenure? Or the beginning of Scott's tenure? These people have no morals. They run their mouths complaining about the federal government taking away rights, then trun around and try and deny those same rights to their own citizens. The only fraud being committed is by those at the top of the power structure in Florida.

    June 1, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  12. Me IN HOUSTON

    "Florida's proposed elimination of non-U.S. citizens from its voter rolls is necessary to preventing voter fraud"

    How did "non-U.S. citizens" get on the voter roll in the first place?
    Who determines if they are a "non-U.S. citizens"
    What if they make a mistake and remove one or more legitimate voters from the roll?
    Does anybody else smell a rat?
    Oh well! The Republicans just won Floriday

    June 1, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  13. sbssue1

    If you're not legal, you don't get a vote. That's what's the matter with this country. Everyone gets away with scamming the legal system.

    June 1, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  14. JimGalt21

    How many dead people will be disenfranchised by not having their vote counted?

    June 1, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  15. Sniffit

    "firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot."

    Finish the sentence: "...and if we're using an outdated driver's license list and it all results in a few thousand minority or naturalized immigrant citizens who are likely to vote Dem being disenfranchised and losing their rights, well, that's the price we pay for freedom."

    June 1, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  16. nilla

    I think any governor who makes any laws about voting should immediately go back up for regulation. In PA, our governor pushed for voter ID laws to stop the rampant voter fraud that was supposedly happening here, but fails to acknowledge that he was elected during a time of said rampant voter fraud. Shouldn't that put his election in question?

    June 1, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  17. AKsteve

    Violates voter rights? Well I guess well just have to have a vote on that. But only those on the "approved" voter list can participate. IOW: white folks with money.

    The Republicans are so corrupt. They wrap them selves in the American flag and tout how much they love American and then do everything they can to undermine the very principles we stand for.

    June 1, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  18. Sniffit

    ""The political party and race of the potential non-citizens is not a factor at all in our process,""

    "But, you know, we're using an outdated driver's license list because, well, FL is a big hub for immigrants and has a rapidly growing minority and immigrant population that's turning it rapidly purple, so it's just a ahppay coincidence that people who are likely not to be on an outdated driver's license list will be brown or people who have become citizens but only recently immigrated."

    June 1, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  19. Anonymous

    Critics say the plan unfairly targets minorities, and paint it as an attempt to dissuade typically Democratic voters from going to the polls.

    So, are critics admitting that the typical Democratic voter is voting illegally?

    June 1, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  20. Sniffit

    """We provided information to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security""

    Why? DOJ is in charge of voter's rights, the Voting Rights Act, the Voter Registration Act, etc. Were they hoping that the Bush/GOP police state designed around demagoguing foreigners would still come to their aid?

    June 1, 2012 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  21. dave

    The latest in the Republican attempts to steal another election. Florida is the key to both parties, and they know it. They obviously feel they cannot win on the issues, so they will try to gain an advantage by hook or by crook, crook being the operative word. The world needs to know how many Republicans vs. Democrats & Independents are on the list. How evenly are the names distributed by party. That should be quite telling.

    June 1, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  22. dakster

    Democracy at its best....ha ha......guess the Supreme Court will end up deciding another presidential election. Who made the Supreme Court Gods......?????

    June 1, 2012 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Facts:

    Laws are on the books.

    FL did not follow them.

    FL has, in fact, violated them by violating the 90 day time period.

    FL used an outdated driver's license list to identify potential people to scrub from the voter rolls, which makes their procedures, etc., very suspect.

    FL just got told by a federal judge that their voter registration restrictions laws violate the Constitution and cannot be enforced.

    FL's behavior is having a disparate impact on minority voters and voters who immigrated and earned the right to vote legitimately.

    GOPers will still say this is all about Dems wanting illegals to vote for Obama.

    June 1, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  24. Sniffit

    Stay tuned. FL is just the GOP's trial balloon. You can expect far more of these kinds of shenanigans taking place as Nov approaches. FAR more.

    June 1, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  25. RealityBites

    No US citizen has yet to be denied the right to vote in Florida. Get it??

    June 1, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
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