Local election boards in Florida advised to stop voter 'purge'
June 4th, 2012
01:58 PM ET
11 years ago

Local election boards in Florida advised to stop voter 'purge'

(CNN) – The legal counsel for Florida's local elections officers has recommended all counties in the state stop removing names from their voter rolls after the U.S. Department of Justice questioned the legality of the action.

In a recommendation dated June 1, Ron Labasky, a lawyer for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, advised all counties to stop the removal of names from the voter rolls until the Justice Department's concerns are resolved.

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"I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues were raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court," Labasky wrote.

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.

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 wrote 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.

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 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. Florida has until Wednesday, June 6, to respond to the federal government's inquiry.

On Monday, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, spokeswoman for the supervisor of elections in Broward County, and Carolina Lopez, spokeswoman for the supervisor of elections in Miami-Dade County, both said their jurisdictions would stop the removal of names.

Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections for the third largest county, Palm Beach, said her office never began the process of removing voters from the rolls since she felt the database used was outdated.

Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections, said his office was preparing a response to the Justice Department's letter.

On Friday, Cate cast the decision to remove names from the list as 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."

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

Also see:

Poll: Romney's favorable rating jumps, but Obama still more popular

Romney backer offers soft Obama praise

Barrett on a presidential visit: Obama's busy

Filed under: Florida
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Myviewis

    It's simple, on voting day you just show one of the IDs on the list and you can vote. Simple, very simple.

    June 4, 2012 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  2. Cliff

    Finally an open topic to reply too. Why are all the topics closed?? Like the Electoral map one which I really wanted to comment to Bren on. First off, CNN is a bit lagging in updating it's maps because Obama in the latest polls is actually winning MO not losing. Granted by only 1 point but that should be a state in the yellow not leaning Romney. Iowa has been for Obama until the last poll which should by CNN standards lean it Obama. Some odd contradictions in their map results. MICH and Wis are not Battleground states nor is PA. Despite Brens assertion, PA is strong Obama. Nevada has leaned Obama all along as has VA, these are not tossups yet. I'm really baffled at their map. Even if you take it at face value, Obama still today would likely pickup CO, Iowa, Nevada, VA, N.H, WIS, MiCH which would give him the election in a landslide.

    June 4, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  3. ST

    Just wait a little bit and see how republicans will go after DOJ. They are going to dig out stuff which are not related to election in order to make them feel uncomfortable.

    June 4, 2012 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  4. Church

    The article seems to reveal that the Florida authorities are breaking the laws that were passed to protect the voters.
    Why do you all insist on defending these criminals? (Criminal = some one who breaks the law.)
    And don't call me a Libtard. I don't like either party.

    June 4, 2012 06:31 pm at 6:31 pm |
  5. Church

    Cliff, It will be a landslide for Obama. That is fact, not RNC and Koch brothers fiction.

    June 4, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  6. dnick47

    I wonder how many balck, hispanic, etc – that is, persons from areas that were likely to vote for Obama were purged?

    June 4, 2012 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  7. John

    The GOP wants less people to vote and the Dems want more people to vote. GOP likes to talk about Voter Fraud which is virtually non existent. However, GOP does not like to talk about voter disfranchisement. GOP is a party in decline frantically trying to hold on to power leading with only the White male vote group. A party which has abandoned the American people in favor of the 1% some time ago. A party which has lost its way.

    June 4, 2012 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  8. timz

    I hope that anyone responsible for removing even one legitimate voter from the electoral rolls will be subject to serious legal and civil penalties.

    June 4, 2012 07:16 pm at 7:16 pm |
  9. Iamnotfooled

    The Republicans have to cheat to win.

    June 4, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  10. Sanity

    So, the illegals get to vote. Good job, Holder.

    June 4, 2012 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  11. scott

    Spot om Florida, do not given in to the corrupt DOJ, and their Nazi tactics. The DOJ and Holder are as corrupt as they come. They are not loyal to the laws, but loyal to the dictator OBama

    June 4, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  12. c'mon america

    The only one who doesn't know they'r a fool is the fool . I'm curious about the age of some of these posters . Is politics or the history of , somewhat new to some of you . Lacking a history of how or why is what makes your rants seem foolish . You can't wake up three years ago and come off sounding like anything but a fool . Dip de doo

    June 4, 2012 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
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