Florida defends voter roll 'purge' after protest from DOJ
June 1st, 2012
10:19 AM ET
10 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 EspaƱol's Adriana Hauser and CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

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Obama campaign releases third set of Spanish ads

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Filed under: Florida
soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. sure thats what they say

    At some point I just have to blame anyone who claims to be a democrat in Florida for the mess they are in. They are the ones who have sat back, and failed to rally the troops, and hoped that they could somehow win control. Instead they have let a crook take over the Governors office and thieves and swindlers to run the head offices.

    June 1, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  2. Pander Bear

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

    This despite the fact there has not been one proven case of ineligible voter fraud. "Non-citizen" is a code name for "Hispanic". FL is a swing state and Romney is not polling well with Hispanics. This is an attempt to squelch the Latino vote to tilt the election to Romney. PERIOD.

    June 1, 2012 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  3. Gurgyl

    Watch this DOJ, cameras on....Florida you can not cheat like BUSH cheated Election....turn on cameras @ elections.

    June 1, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Lionel

    Is the Republicans going to take us back to when only males can vote.

    This is clearly another voter suppression move.

    The most famous voter fraud was the fiasco in 2000 when Bush stole the election from Gore.

    Latinos for Obama 2012

    June 1, 2012 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  5. Dave Harris

    Local election officials in Florida, many of them Republicans, are up in arms about this because they recognize it for what it is, an attempt by one party to cheat and prevent legal voters from voting. There is no problem with "voter fraud" in Florida, and Republicans know it; this is all a sham. It's hardly a secret that Republicans hate Latinos, even the ones who are here legally and can vote. So they imagine that by preventing Latinos from voting, there will be fewer people voting against them. It's just lies and dirty tricks, as usual, from Florida Republicans.

    June 1, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. Hangar13

    What possible reason could Democrats have for opposing a move to prevent ineligible people from voting, unless they are counting on voter fraud to steal the election? I see your robot commenters have found ways to spin it into "those evil Republicans" but rational people easily see through this. If you want proof, look no further than liberal-biased CNN's ratings, they've lost fully 50 percent of their audience in the past 12 months. People want truth.

    June 1, 2012 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
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