Local election boards in Florida advised to stop voter 'purge'
June 4th, 2012
01:58 PM ET
8 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 Español's Adriana Hauser and CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Also see:

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Romney backer offers soft Obama praise

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Filed under: Florida
soundoff (87 Responses)
  1. Larry L

    @23 from Texas

    "I am reading the comments on this post... and all I can see are dead brain cells. Dems are stupid."
    As a Texan I've seen what Republicans can do to a government. We're the home of "Mission Accomplished!" Bush ans "Oops!" Perry. I'm shocked you're even able to read.

    June 4, 2012 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. GI Joe

    Just like 2000 - here comes Mitt Bush, Supreme Court - wanna show your red-ness again?

    We'll start a revolutionary war and won't stop until the radicals are removed (like they should have been in 2000 – they CAN be impeached).

    June 4, 2012 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. samieb51

    Total number of voters he wants to purge statewide is 182,000. All counties. That is a quite significant number of voters to supress/disenfranchise.

    June 4, 2012 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  4. GI Joe

    The republicans always accuse the dems of what they themselves are doing. They are such cheats and that's why the paranoia in the republican party.

    June 4, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  5. inathens

    Victory for justice!! On a technicality non-legal voters will be allowed to remain on the lists and likely remain to vote in the presidential election after all. Everything makes sense when the federal government steps in and starts managing.

    June 4, 2012 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    Uh, I'm sure it's a coincidence that this is being done in red states by republican governors. Uh huh.


    Take away Florida's electoral votes if they go against the law AGAIN.

    June 4, 2012 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  7. Myviewis

    I looked up Florida and this is the list of acceptable forms of ID for voting: "Florida Driver's License, Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, United States Passport, Debit or credit card,Military identification, Student identification, Retirement center identification, Public assistance identification, Neighborhood Association identification". I am sure people have one of these forms of ID so how can Florida Gov. Scott be accused of preventing minorities from voting.

    June 4, 2012 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Keeping it Real

    i.e. Please stop until after the election, so that Obama can get more fraudulent votes.

    June 4, 2012 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  9. Keeping it Real

    Obvious Guy


    Have you ever been to Broward or Miami-Dade? You know what it has a lot of, LEGAL immigrants, seniors, and former New Yorkers. We do not have ILLEGAL immigrants here. But you are pretty stupid sounding and probably are afraid of the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse also.


    I have family there. Yes, there are illegals in those counties. To think otherwise is pure ignorance.

    June 4, 2012 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  10. ClemVinson

    Florida has been THE battleground state for over a decade now. Of course the tea-baggers are attempting to thin the rolls. Without a red Florida, electoral math will never add up for the GOP. Underrhanded tactics are par for the course these days...

    June 4, 2012 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  11. Keeping it Real


    The Repubs are desperate to suppress voters because they know that Dems win when there is a large turnout.

    Pretty pathetic, but it's all the Repubs have; Lord knows all their economic, military and foreign policies are PROVEN FAILURES.

    Obama/Biden 2012 = The only sane choice


    or maybe this; Dems don't believe they can win wit accountability in the voting process. Obama has been a complete failure when it comes to military, economic and foreign policy. I can't see anyone rationally defending his abyssal record.

    June 4, 2012 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  12. Keeping it Real


    Voter fraud is a bogus smoke screen thrown up by the Repubs in their effort to distract voters from their lack of accomplishments.


    Just what are you afraid of then? I seriously have my doubts that Democrats could win a fair election in the state. It makes no sense at all to oppose tighter voting regulations. Hell, that's what Democrats seem to live for anyway!

    June 4, 2012 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  13. FrankinSD

    Its good to see DOJ finally taking some action against right-wing voter suppression efforts. Obama should just let the career civil rights prosecutors have a free hand and keep his political appointees out of the process.

    June 4, 2012 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  14. Biotechdev

    OPEN approval of voter fraud by Obama's DOJ. The most corrupt administration in American history

    June 4, 2012 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  15. J.V.Hodgson

    I smell a rat, how on earth did they pass the tests required by the original application to get on the voter rolls. in the first place??
    This is yet another example of many republican states making it more difficult for the poor to vote, by increasing the paper work and Photo ID's or DL's excuse me not everyone who can be eligible to vote owns a car... so whats the option and if needed in the : land of the free and the American dream. Then, the cost obtaining whats needed should be borne by the states especially for Presidential elections.

    June 4, 2012 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  16. larry5

    If the vote of the illegals could help swing the re-election then the DOJ will protect them. Don't worry. If you're too busy talking on the phone or playing a computer game the government will watch over you. Just keep tuned into your local media outlet for the latest news. They'll help you with those confusing ballots, too.

    June 4, 2012 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  17. JustAO

    Voting rights act was decided decades ago for a reason.
    Roe v Wade was decided decades ago for a reason.
    Keeping undisclosed corporate donors out of our political process was decided decades ago for a reason.
    Keeping commercial banks out of the stock market was decided decades ago for a reason.

    Why are Republican legislators and conservative justices overturning decades of laws that were put in place to protect consumers, the economy, and the rights of American citizens ever since America elected the first non-white President?Makes you wonder.

    It is congress and the supreme court who make and interpret laws in this country; not the President. So don't give me this well Clinton signed and Bush signed argument. They are only a miniscul piece of the larger governmental puzzle.

    June 4, 2012 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  18. ClemVinson

    In the new Amercia, not only does money equal free speech, it also is a requirement to vote. We have become a pathetic plutotracy, please take back the power people...

    June 4, 2012 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  19. chilly g

    republican is allways trying to prevent people from voting unless you are a republican. the republican is really hurting
    this country the hate and the hate and the hate.

    June 4, 2012 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  20. Biotechdev

    OMG – what mentally ill CNN reporter or Democrats, watching the impact of austerity measures in Greece and other EU countries, and after our own debt has gone above GDP, would actually ask to borrow MORE? I know who. The Democrats who just want to keep paying off their voting bases and special interests until AFTER the election. The diffference between the GOP and the Dems – the GOP puts their ideas out their on the table. But they have NOTHING to compare thme to because Obama and the Dems have proposed NOTHING

    June 4, 2012 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  21. Biotechdev

    Andrew Malcolm, over at Investors Business Daily, highlights an interesting story coming to us from Washington, but involving the Sunshine State. It seems that Florida’s recent efforts to conduct a thorough review of their voter rolls and purge the ineligible or the … er… dead, have drawn the Attorney General. And what might the Department of Justice have to say about this record-keeping audit? Clearly, this has to be stopped.
    Washington has ordered Florida to end its effort to remove ineligible voters from the state’s voter rolls. This is breathtaking. It couldn’t be clearer that the government is actively promoting voter fraud.
    Somehow, the DOJ has determined that purging illegal voters — felons, noncitizens, the deceased — from the rolls is a violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act as well as the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. According to the Miami Herald, the department’s lead civil rights attorney, T. Christian Herren Jr., sent the state “a detailed two-page letter” on Thursday demanding that Florida’s elections division shut down its pursuit.
    So… it’s a violation of the Voting RIGHTS Act to make sure that everyone voting is actually eligible and has the RIGHT to vote, eh? But if Florida is running around purging a bunch of eligible people from the rolls and depriving them of their fundamental rights, I can understand how Eric Holder would feel the need to intervene. So, Andrew, how many people are being purged from the rolls thus far?
    What’s missing from Herren’s complaint is the fact that no one is actually moved off the rolls until they are found to be ineligible. Simply sending names to county elections supervisors to confirm eligibility, which is what Florida officials are doing, discriminates against no one. Either the person is eligible to vote or not.
    No one is harassed or summarily tossed off the voter rolls. There is no poll tax or literacy test.
    Groups on the left could find “discrimination” on Mars. So of course they declare that Florida’s attempt to certify the integrity of its voter rosters is discriminatory. They lament that requiring the voters in question to prove they are eligible is a burden on voters rather than on government.
    Florida has responded, saying they’ll answer Washington in the coming week.

    June 4, 2012 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  22. Devon

    @ justAO WORD!! This Slimeball romney knows That Rigging FL is his ONLY shot at Winning. He is vey UN- American,

    June 4, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  23. Biotechdev

    why don't you allow replies om Sound Off?

    June 4, 2012 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  24. Peace

    Stand firmly Dems. Remember what Romney said last week or so. What he cares is to reach 50.1% of votes or more. It doesn't matter who votes or how it is done. Folks, we need a clean and fair election. Each and every individual has to keep an eye on this.

    June 4, 2012 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  25. george of the jungle

    voter fraud is so over rated this is a repo smok screen to keep legal people from voting. Check out the names of the people they are trying to surpress? Obama 2012

    June 4, 2012 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
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