DOJ says it will sue Florida over voting rolls purge
June 11th, 2012
07:10 PM ET
3 years ago

DOJ says it will sue Florida over voting rolls purge

(CNN) - In the latest volley in the ongoing battle over Florida voter lists, the Justice Department has sent a letter stating it will take legal action against the state, citing violations of voting rights laws.

"Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court," said Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Thomas Perez.

View the letter (PDF)

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The lawsuit comes after the department began questioning the legality of the state's so-called voter purge program, which 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.

Florida's move to eliminate non-eligible voters from its lists began after the state's Republican governor, Rick Scott, pressed the state to identify non-U.S. citizens who had registered to vote illegally.

Using information from Florida'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.

While the Justice Department notes that states can legally remove non-eligible voters from their lists, the letter Monday argues that the Florida program does not comply with legal standards has "critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters."

The letter states that the Florida program improperly uses the information collected from old driver's license applications.

"The information is often going to be outdated, as a number of persons will subsequently have become citizens and lawfully registered to vote," Perez wrote.

It also suggests that the removal process has been going on during a "90-day quiet period" prior to the August 14 primary election.

"Please immediately cease this unlawful conduct," the letter states.

Three of the state's largest counties - Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach - agreed last week to end the removal of the names. The legal counsel for Florida's county election officials recommended halting the purge of names until the state responded to the federal government's legal assessment.

Florida's Republican-appointed secretary of state, Ken Detzner, has previously defended the state's practice, slamming the federal government for restricting access to federal citizenship databases and saying such a constraint was illegal.

"It is an unfortunate but now undeniable fact that Florida's voter rolls include individuals who are not citizens of the United States. The Florida Department of State has a solemn obligation to ensure the integrity of elections in this State," Detzner wrote in the letter last week addressed to T. Christian Herren, head of the Justice Department's elections unit.

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Filed under: 2012 • Florida • Justice Department
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Thomas

    Rick Scott made his fortune in health care by exploiting patients and the federal government as CEO of the world's largest health care company. As governor of Florida, he's now taking away cost-saving health care benefits and patient protections from millions. But this time he's an elected official who swore to uphold the law.

    Romney / Scott
    Money talks 2012

    June 11, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  2. macrasta

    Go for it DOJ!

    June 11, 2012 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  3. dems try to cheat, again?

    Holder really, really wants Obama to win... legally or illegally. Hard to believe that that guy leads the DOJ.

    June 11, 2012 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  4. Top_News

    My goodness. Why doesn't Eric Holder and obama just send absentee ballots to Iran and have them vote in our election this November?

    June 11, 2012 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  5. tom clements

    Wow...Letting people who do not have the right to vote to cancel out the rights of those who do have the right. Way to go DOJ! Its 182,000 not 100,000 as mistated in the article.

    June 11, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  6. Bob

    Wow amazing. The US Government suing a state that is trying to insure the integrity of the voting process. The most sacred part of being a US citizen is now being attacked by our own government.

    June 11, 2012 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |