(CNN) – Florida's Republican-appointed secretary of state said Friday his state's effort to remove non-U.S. citizens from voter rolls is a legal and necessary step to prevent fraud, and that critics who label the move a political tactic are misinformed.
"If there's a non-citizen eligible to vote and votes in this election, they'll neutralize and delete someone else's vote that's eligible to vote," Ken Detzner said on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien"
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He continued, "I can tell you, I hear from people every day that call my office and explain that they do not want their vote eliminated by a non-citizen who is registered to vote. That's the mission that I'm undertaking and I want to make sure this fall that everyone who is eligible to vote will vote and that votes will be counted here in Florida."
Detzner's remarks on CNN cap off a contentious week for the Florida secretary of state, who is engaged in a heated debate with the United States Department of Justice over the legality of Florida's decision to remove names from voter rolls. The move comes five months ahead of a presidential election in which swing state Florida, with its 29 electoral votes, will play an influential role.
Detzner, appointed to his post by Republican Gov. Rick Scott, defended his stance Friday, saying no eligible voter would be denied the right to cast a ballot.
"No individual who is eligible to vote has been removed from the voter list," Detzner said on CNN. "Everyone has been notified by the supervisors of election is given due process to notify that supervisor as to their citizenship or not. I'm confident that our due process will make sure that everyone is treated fairly going forward and no eligible citizens will be eliminated from the voter rolls."
Florida's move to remove non-eligible voters from its voter lists began after Scott, the state's Republican governor, pressed Florida's elections officials 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. Ron Brownstein, a CNN political analyst, said Florida's move did have a political component.
"There is inherently a lot of politics in this," Brownstein said. "You have a series of Republican governors, Republican state legislators producing tough new laws making it tough to register voters and scrub the voter rolls. This against a backdrop of reality that in 2008 Barack Obama is polling around 80% of minority voters and almost all of these initiatives would have a disproportionate effect on minority voters."
Detzner said voters whose eligibility is questioned at the polls had legal recourse.
"There is a due process and I want to remind everyone should they show up at the poll and they claim that they're citizens, they can vote a provisional ballot at the poll which can be validated after the election," Detzner said.
The Department of Justice wrote in a letter last week 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.
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.
Florida's three largest counties - Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach - all said earlier this week they had either stopped the removal of names from their voter lists or had never begun the process. The legal counsel for Florida's county election officials recommended halting the purge of names until the state responded to the federal government. That office has yet to issue an updated recommendation.
In its letter, the Justice Department 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.
In the interview Friday, Detzner took issue with the Justice Department's legal assessment, claiming the federal provision against removing names from rolls only applies to people who were once eligible to vote but, through death or criminal conviction, had become ineligible.
"The law does not exclude us from eliminating non-citizens from the list," Detzner said. "We do at the present time during this 90-day period we do eliminate individuals that are felons, people that are mentally incompetent and those that are deceased. It seems no logical question that those individuals might have more rights, or the individuals that are non-citizens, would have more rights than someone who is a felon."
Detzner also accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of violating federal law by preventing his state from accessing a citizenship database.
"I have spoken to many supervisors and they, like I, are waiting for the Department of Homeland Security to give us access to the SAVE database which they are legally required to do so that we can better and more accurately determine citizenship here in Florida," Detzner said. "I'm waiting for a return letter, and response from [Homeland Security Secretary Janet] Napolitano who I wrote to a week ago requesting an opportunity to meet and determine how we can get access to that voter record."
CNN en Español's Adriana Hauser contributed to this report.