June 12th, 2012
09:12 AM ET
10 years ago

After DOJ sues, Florida governor says 100 illegal voters justifies 'purge'

(CNN) – Removing non-U.S. citizens from lists of registered voters is a legal necessity, the Republican governor of Florida asserted Tuesday after his state was threatened with legal action by the U.S. Department of Justice over the so-called voter "purge."

Gov. Rick Scott said on CNN's "Starting Point" the state had identified "almost 100 individuals" who had registered to vote but weren't U.S. citizens.

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"Over 50 of them have voted in our elections," Scott said. "I have an obligation to enforce the laws of our land. You don't get to vote in Florida if you're a non-U.S. citizen.

Speaking at a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said maintaining voting rights for citizens was critical.

"The right to vote is the lifeblood of our democracy," Holder said. "It is what makes this nation exceptional. The work that I have been doing, the department has been doing, the speeches that I have been giving are not – I am not advocating for a party. I am advocating for a principle. The principle is the right to vote."

On Monday, the Justice Department sent a letter threatening legal action against the state, citing violations of voting rights laws.

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.

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.

The Justice Department letter states that the Florida program improperly uses the information collected from old driver's license applications, saying the data could be outdated.

"A number of persons will subsequently have become citizens and lawfully registered to vote," 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.

Critics say the plan unfairly targets minorities, and paint it as an attempt by a Republican gubernatorial administration to dissuade typically Democratic voters from going to the polls.

Scott said Tuesday that claim was bogus.

"This is not a partisan issue," he said on CNN. "This is not Republican or Democrat or independent issue. This is an issue that I want, all of us want, everyone wants every U.S. citizen to go and register to vote. Participate in elections. But non-U.S. citizens shouldn't be doing that."

Florida, which itself is suing the Department of Homeland Security for access to a citizenship database, was within its legal rights in moving ahead with the purge, Scott said.

"We need the Homeland Security database. Look, think about it. I don't know anybody that wants to say we want non-U.S. citizens to vote in our races. We want to do the right way. That's what we tried to do. Our secretary of state's office has been working with Homeland Security for months asking for this database so we can do it right," the governor said.

In 2008, President Barack Obama won Florida with 51% of the vote, and the state is classified as a "toss up" on CNN's Electoral Map in 2012. There are 29 electoral votes at stake.

- Check out the CNN Electoral Map and Calculator and game out your own strategy for November.

Filed under: Florida • Rick Scott
soundoff (88 Responses)
  1. edpeters101

    What we should be doing it getting the illegal politicians out of office! Instead of trying to limit the number of people voting they should be trying to get everybody to vote. I was under the impression that we had a "representative form of government", and that means everybody can/should vote (without having to jump through hoops to satisfy some holier than thou politician)! No 'Common Sense' we are not stupid, we do however have politicians that do not feel everybody is as equal as they believe themselves to be!

    June 12, 2012 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  2. lance corporal

    stalin liked purges too

    the republican party is doing this kind of thing in florida trying to take over the state, they put several laws in place to make it hard to vote and even crminalized teachers registering students

    I guess if they can't win on ideas this sort of gamesmanship is all they have

    June 12, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  3. cyclonus11

    100 illegals out of how many total purged? Setting fire to the haystack just to find one needle?

    June 12, 2012 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  4. Steve

    This is so bogus, illegal immigrants don't come to this country to vote in our elections. No illegal in his right mind would ever go to a voting station. This is just very unusual.

    June 12, 2012 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  5. wow o wow

    An amazng thing happened on Gov Walkers purging of the voters... none of them ended up being registered republicans. Well that might be explained by the simple fact they are not looking at republican registration... that would defeat the purpose of purging he democrats registration.

    June 12, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  6. Jay

    Back in the day he probably would have just used firehoses and german shepards.

    June 12, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  7. jack johnson

    I think we should purge all the repubs. out of Washington!

    June 12, 2012 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  8. Joi Gibson

    No one is questioning the fact that non-citizens should NOT be voting. What is at question, at least for me anyway, is the timing and process. I mean why now. Why was this not a priority for Governor(s) Bush or Crist, since, according to Rick Scott, it is such an epidemic. And of the people targeted, 87% are minorities and are registered as Democrats or Independents. It seems rather suspect to me. As a resident of Palm Beach County, I applaud our supervisor of elections for stopping this purge.


    June 12, 2012 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  9. Alan Meyer

    When the governor removes 100,000 names from the voter registration lists, claiming that "almost 100" of them turned out to be illegally registered, he is attempting to block about 1,000 legiitimate voters for each illegal one. How can anyone claim that the purpose of this is block illegal voting? What we really have is illegal blocking of legitimate voting.

    June 12, 2012 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  10. lol63

    The timing is suspicious only because it's just now being reported. Hmmm, wonder why that is? This started quite a while back apparently. I'm from Florida, & this doesn't surprise me a bit. The fact that 3 of the counties with very high latino populations says a lot to me as well. SOS. Both sides playing games.

    June 12, 2012 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  11. luke,az

    How do you purge a guy who served as a Marine in WWII , Here we go again , 2000 all over again !

    June 12, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  12. asdf

    Better that a thousand innocent men go to prison than one guilty man walk free...right? right?

    June 12, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  13. judy

    typical repo smoke screen. wasting thousands of dollars because of 100 people most of whom becames citizens. This is a waste of tax payer dollars and another ploy by the right to keep citizens from voteing. Florida politics really stinks and has changed the course of this country. Vote all repos out. Forward 2012

    June 12, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
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