Purge sparks three lawsuits in Florida

Since Florida Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner refused to comply with a Department of Justice warning to stop their sweeping effort to purge voters from the rolls, the DOJ has filed a suit against the state, contending the purge violates the National Voter Registration Act.

Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General, DOJ:

The Department of Justice has a shared interest with all states in ensuring that all eligible citizens have the opportunity to register and vote. […] It appears that Florida has initiated a new program for systematic voter removal, which may ultimately target more than 180,000 registered voters. […] Your program has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters.

The lawsuit comes on the heels of another complaint against the state – this one filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the American Civil Liberties Union - denouncing the purge for unfairly targeting Hispanic voters, who make up 61% of the people identified on the list but only 14 % of registered Florida voters.

Bob Kengle, Co-director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

Florida is flouting federal laws designed to protect voters from precisely this kind of action. The right of every citizen to have their voice heard at the ballot box is being threatened. The Lawyers’ Committee will continue to tirelessly fight any effort to make full-fledged Americans second-class citizens.

Howard Simon, Executive Director, ACLU of Florida:

It seems that Governor Scott and his Secretary of State cannot speak without hiding what they mean in political spin. They mislead Floridians by calling their illegal list purge ‘protecting citizen's voting rights.’ This is precisely why Congress has re-enacted, and why we continue to need, the Voting Rights Act – to prevent state officials from interfering with the constitutional rights of minorities. We now look to the courts to stop the Scott administration from assaulting democracy by denying American citizens the right to vote.

Many of the 67 Florida counties have since ceased the program, but Scott and Detzner aren’t backing down, filing their own suit against the Department of Homeland Security. Not only are they defending their efforts, but also claiming the federal agency is required to give access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program records to identify ineligible voters.

Florida now joins Texas among states that are challenging the federal government over voting laws in court.

For more information, be sure to check out The Right to Vote under Attack: The Campaign to Keep Millions of Americans from the Ballot Box, a Right Wing Watch: In Focus report (and more) by PFAW Foundation.

PFAW Foundation