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program improperly uses the information collected from old driver's license applications, saying the data could be outdated.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. nolongerarepublican

    Same exact story. The Republicans did this in 2000, purged a lot of LEGAL voters in Florida, the election came down to Florida and a few votes, so the Republican controlled Supreme Court appointed our President in clear violation of the Constitution.
    This election is just as close, it worked once so they are doing it again.
    This time there will be blood in the streets, we will not be fooled again.

    June 12, 2012 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  2. Internet Child

    Why would the DoJ want to stop Gov. Scott from removing illegals from the voter rolls if they weren't counting on fraud to win elections? They already allow illegals into public schools, why not let citizens of every country vote in US elections?

    June 12, 2012 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  3. nolongerarepublican

    Same plan to appoint a President as with Bush.

    June 12, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  4. Malory Archer

    So it's okay to disenfranchise 100k individuals in order to prevent 100 from voting? Isn't that tantamount to saying we had to burn the village in order to save the village?

    June 12, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  5. OTown's a doomauss

    "100,000 illegals"? They identified 100,000 non-US citizens (i.e. permanent residents, foreign students, etc.) using OLD driver's license application data. These are people who were LEGALLY here in the U.S., and many of them have since become U.S. citizens, perhaps most (if not all) of the "100 individuals who had registered to vote" had in fact become U.S. citizens after the driver's license applications were submitted. 100 out of 100,000 doesn't sound like an unreasonable percentage to me.

    June 12, 2012 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  6. Fedup

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

    Oh.. so it's ok to ILLEGALLY register to vote and (in theory) vote, as long as you become legal sometime in the future.. and why inconvenience someone who has BROKEN THE LAW by having them register to vote now that they are actually LEGALLY ELIGIBLE???

    Has everyone gone insane? Or does this mean that a 12 yr old can drive around without a drivers license, then when they are 16, the State has to automatically send them one?

    June 12, 2012 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  7. Jim970

    Why would anyone oppose removing illegal voters from the system? Every state should be doing that. Sounds like the "current administration" is hoping that illegals will sneak in and vote for him. Outrageous that we do not enforce immigrations laws and even more so that the federal government would try to stop states from eliminating illegal voters.

    June 12, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  8. NewGawker

    What is wrong with florida and all the problems with voting? Place is like the wild wild west.

    June 12, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  9. Joshua Ludd

    Maybe Florida can do the same thing it did in 2000.. you know... kick anyone off the rolls whose name is SIMILAR to that of someone who shouldn't be voting.. you know... as long as they are likely to vote for Democrats.

    June 12, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  10. DanInKY

    This man should be wearing prison stripes instead of running a state. He has no credibility on what is legal and what is not.

    June 12, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. William Ross

    No No No... if they suspect voter fraud, then investigate! You have their home / mailing address. Kindly go and meet them check to verify their eligibility. If you find fraud, then arrest them, if there is no fraud then their fscking votes count! Orwell is rolling in his grave right now.

    June 12, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  12. Larry L

    Florida has abused the election process so badly they should lose the right to hold elections. The Republicans in charge will say or do anything to rig the outcome – as we know from history. Now we find out Scott was lying about the "100 illegals".

    June 12, 2012 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  13. JJ

    It doesn't take a genius to figure out why Scott is doing this now, JUST BEFORE the election, when people have less time to find out and correct it if they are illegally removed from the voter list if they can legally vote.

    Or maybe it does take a genius, if you are a repukeblican.

    June 12, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  14. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The problem is that many people like the governor seem to think that getting a few non-citizens off the rolls while booting many more citizens is a good deal. I saw that Florida should have waited until after November to start doing this to avoid any problems with the DOJ and should have had DOJ join in the process. This would have covered their back abou this.

    June 12, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  15. concerned

    its possible that some of the non citizen voters were unaware that they weren't supposed to vote. if florida is like many other states, when individuals get their driver's license, the clerk will automatically ask if he/she wants to vote. i've seen isntances when the clerk and the individual were BOTH unaware that a non citizen cannot vote. this can easily happen to a U.S. permanent resident/green card holder. i'm curious what happened to the non citizens in florida who were removed from the voter registration logs. were they also charged with a crime and facing possible deportation? the article doesn't say. maybe there were some who did it intentionally, but if i had to guess i would say that most, if not all, did it unknowingly.

    June 12, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  16. Steve

    Dear Conservatives, Nobody on the left or right wants people to vote illegally. The difference appears to be on how to deal with it. Conservatives believe it is okay to deny thousands of legal citizens their right to vote as long the very few that cheat are also kept from voting. Liberals want all legal citizens to be able to vote and go after the very few that cheat.

    June 12, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  17. Mark

    If this wasn't a GOP tactic to help them get elected they would have started this back in early 2011 to give people who are legal time to prove it. The timing is purly political.

    June 12, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. edpeters101

    How 'bout getting rid of the illegal politicians! Instead of trying to get more people to vote, these clowns are trying to get fewer people to vote. And here I thought we had a "representative government", not true if everybody is not allowed to vote!!! YMMV

    June 12, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  19. Rick

    The issue is they have never found an illegal on the voting rolls or who has voted. They are just purging voting records to create a situation where the Republicans will win. Republicans continue the mis information scheme to purge voters. They are lie often. Every Republican Governor is doing this. taking away the people voting rights. That what Republicans do to win. they are frauds, crooked, racist and extremest.

    June 12, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. Gary

    Scott was indicted for fraud (not election related) before he was ever elected and a zebra can't change his stripes. Nonsense like this is so transparent and wrong and is part of the reason that Florida has become synonymous with election fraud. Not by individuals claiming to be someone else or anything at that level but by the state representatives stealing the election. if you want to ensure fair and free elections in Florida they should purge Scott for a start.

    June 12, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  21. JAmes

    Well if any of them are US Citizens now, they can prove it easily and retain their right to vote. Oh I know we are supposed to let everyone vote early, vote often, regardless of whether they are eligible or not.

    June 12, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  22. Robert McCabe

    How can our right to vote remain sacred if noncitizens are voting.

    June 12, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  23. glorydays

    After fighting for 6 months to get the right to vote in Florida, I will spend the rest of my life opening doors for these disenfranchised voters and see the Scott is booted out.

    June 12, 2012 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  24. Etch-a-Sketch Mitt Romney taking USA backward with "A Better Amercia"

    the 100 illegal Hispanics the state of FL found in this political witch hunt voted for Marco Rubio and Rick Scot the last go round!!!

    June 12, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  25. Peace

    If Scott thinks this issue is important, why didn't he take any action during GOP primaries? It wasn't important then but it is important now!!!!! Pathetic.

    June 12, 2012 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
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