June 12th, 2012
09:12 AM ET
9 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program improperly uses the information collected from old driver's license applications, saying the data could be outdated.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. Andrew

    He is right, but his timing is a bit funny. Looks like FL is out to screw the democrat again. I still cant believe Florida didnt have to revote in the 2000 election afte Jeb had votes thrown away when Gore was announced as the winner of the state. Then they did a 're-count', which meant nothing since votes already went missing.

    June 12, 2012 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  2. Marcia Greenwood, IN

    OK so remove the 1oo illegals-but he is removing over 200,000 I have heard-no removal without proof-Americans should be able to vote and not removed at the whim of a governor without proof

    June 12, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  3. Common Cents

    Seriously, why shouldn't non-citizens be allowed to vote. They're allowed to fund political campaigns through Super PACS, what's the difference.

    And doesn't anybody think it's a little ridiculous to purge 100,000 people when you've only had 100 people identified as actually having voted illegally? This is creating a solution to find a problem.

    June 12, 2012 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. A True Centrist

    I asked this before and will ask it again. If the people are not legally eligible to vote, why is it a problem that Florida is taking them off the list of registered voters...isn't that part of the Florida Election Division's job?

    June 12, 2012 09:20 am at 9:20 am |
  5. ladyfon

    Funny how the DOJ thinks only democrat leaning minorities would illegally vote. I would think that if they thought these illegal votes would lean Republican they would do something about it. Guess they have some inside knowledge.

    June 12, 2012 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  6. Severely Moderate

    Voter ID is no longer enough.
    Now they need voter DNA.
    Rmoney and his allies are becoming too desperate.

    June 12, 2012 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  7. v_mag

    Great, Rick. Show us the list. Or is it like that famous list of commies that McCarthy waved around but never let anybody take a look at?

    While you're at it, show us the list of the poor, black and brown American citizens you have so far purged from the voter rolls. I'll bet that list is far larger than 100 hypothetical alien registered voters.

    June 12, 2012 09:25 am at 9:25 am |
  8. KasichFatCat

    In 2000 there were 500 registered voters that were removed from the rolls that were eligible to vote. These 500 voters could have made the difference between a President Gore or President Bush. So it looks like history will be repeating itself in 2012.

    June 12, 2012 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  9. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    OOOH. 100 people found out of 87000 identified. If I were a resident of the state of Florida, I would sue the state for wasting my taxpayer dollars. How much says those 100 were all Cubanos in the Miami-Dade area?

    June 12, 2012 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  10. Larry L

    A few months before the election isn't the time to suddenly decide to clean up Florida's voting situation. The Republicans in charge are simply doing everything they can to discourage voters from the polls, knowing the ultra-right-wing zeolots will show up regardless of the situation. Nobody wants voter fraud, but a hundred "ilegal" voters out of millions is budget dust. We will continue to have problems running a democratic system as long as under-educated, gullible, bigoted and fearful people control the Red States.

    June 12, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  11. Bill from GA

    And to all the other thousands of voters wrongfully on the list, it's "Guilty until proven Innocent".
    The old American Way, repug style.

    June 12, 2012 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  12. 1twinsfan

    Wow, nearly 100! What was the original claim again? Oh yeah, 180, 000. With that kind of math, I guess the New Jersey Devils can claim they won their game last night and the Kings should put that trophy down, it ain't over.

    June 12, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |

    This is a partisan issue. Why is it only states with republican governors that are passing voting ID and voter surpression laws? Republicans know they can't win on the policy issues, so they'll cheat just like they did in 2000.

    June 12, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  14. demwit

    Only US citizens can vote!? When did that start??

    June 12, 2012 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  15. dreamer96

    Florida required drug testing of all people collecting unemployment too...that was a waste of money and was stopped when it was proved the vast majority of the unemployed did not use drugs...Just more GOP lies..spreading fear, and hate, and finding escape goats for their conservative values....The GOP's right to life... Stops at birth....

    June 12, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  16. Marie MD

    Too bad this rich mutant wasn't around when that tzmmy faye wanna be gave the election to the shrub in 2000 before the kkk clsn of the scotus appointed him president.
    I wonder how much of what he says is true!

    June 12, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |

    Scott will be kicked out in next election if he's not in jail already for Medicade fraud !!!

    June 12, 2012 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  18. mcskadittle

    so if you take his word on it, you are changing the law because there are somewhere between 50 and 100 people out of a population of 19 MILLION. democracy in action

    June 12, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  19. MLL

    He could inadvertly put the screws the Republicans. South Florida Cubans are Repubs.That's why Rubio is against the plan.

    June 12, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  20. jim

    Due to Citizens United our democracy has already been sold to the highest bidder! We dont have a democracy anymore!
    I thought we were supposed to be the greatest example of democracy in the world...not so much anymore..We will be left with a puppet government beholding to a few very wealthy donors

    June 12, 2012 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  21. GonzoinHouston

    Taking a name off the voter lists because the state KNOWS they are not legal voters is one thing. Taking thousands of names off the list because they MIGHT be is something else. And for those who maintain there is no political angle in this, why are the only states run by Republicans engaged in these practices?

    June 12, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  22. Wake up people

    Wow, just 100 out of 180,000. What a waste of taxpayer money. This election is already over. All you need to do is do this same thing in maybe 5 states and Robmey will win. This reminds me of the movie Carrie, when Chris wanted Carrie to win prom queen. Remember her cronies smiling picking up the ballots and then slipping the fake ones in while throwing the real ones away.

    As for anyone thinking the dems are behind this should google Rep Thaddeus McCotter, rep out of Michigan. He had 1,830 signatures and only 244 of them were any good.

    OBAMA 2012!

    June 12, 2012 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  23. Otown

    So we can identify 100,000 illegals that "might" vote, but we can't find any illegals that are working here??? Also, couldn't this process have started at the beginning of the year (ensuring everybody that was purged would have ample time to cure the problem) and nuetralizing the Dems and DOJ?

    June 12, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  24. soapboxshrink

    The DOJ is now a political tool of Obama, and he is using it to eliminate or intimidate conservatives. Everytime a state tries to take any action that might upset hispanics, the DOJ jumps in. (Arizona) Florida is trying to purge NON-ELIGIBLE voters from their rolls. There are lots of reasons that a person could be non-eligible, but Obama and his henchmen assume that this is a plot to eliminate hispanic voters, who they assume will vote democratic. Obama is a classic Chicago politician, using every dirty trick in the book to assure that he gets re-elected. It's funny how liberals are all about freedom of speech, as long as you are saying what they want to hear, and personal rights, as long as they agree. This is just another ploy by Obama to pander to ethnic groups, and further divide the country. In answer to the question of why are only "red" states purging their rolls? maybe because "red" states believe in one-man-one-vote, as long as that man is eligible to vote. Mark my words, even if the republicans manage to defeat Obama in November (which sadly is a long shot) Obama will stop at nothing to hold onto the office. I predict he will go so far as to declare the elections invalid, and declare marshal law. Maybe then all of you koolaid drinkers will recognize him for what he is.

    June 12, 2012 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  25. enuff

    There is a reason counties in Florida are listed under the voting act of 1965. the fact that Florida's governor wants to continue in this vain and block those with minority sounding names from voting shows that voter discrimination still is an issue 40 years later.

    June 12, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
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