Voter suppression spotlight shines squarely on Florida

News out of Florida this morning suggests that, despite a warning from the Department of Justice, Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner will proceed, and possibly expand, their sweeping effort to purge voters from the rolls.

The Miami Herald:

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration is positioning itself for a showdown with the U.S. Department of Justice for demanding that Florida cease searching for and purging noncitizen voters.

The DOJ gave Florida until Wednesday to respond to a letter, sent last week, that said the purge probably ran afoul of two federal voting laws.

Florida will respond, but it probably won’t quit its effort and will likely ask the DOJ to clarify its interpretation of the federal laws it cited.

Thousands of voters have already been targeted, with thousands more possible, for revocation of their right to vote should they not provide the requested proof of citizenship, despite the widespread concern that the state is using flawed day and that many are in fact eligible voters.

DOJ:

Our records do not reflect that these changes affecting voting have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Accordingly, it is necessary that they either be brought before that court or submitted to the Attorney General for a determination that they neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of discriminating on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under Section 5.

The Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections has instructed all 67 supervisors to comply with the DOJ order, but Governor Scott and Secretary Detzner appear to be moving forward, with DOJ and voting rights supporters thus likely very soon to sue.

Florida is already in court over HB 1355, the law commonly referred to by voting rights supporters as the “Voter Suppression Act.” Last week, Judge Robert Hinkle of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida issued an injunction blocking most of its worst provisions. It was originally sponsored by Representative Dennis Baxley, who has ties to ALEC.

Judge Hinkle:

Together speech and voting are constitutional rights of special significance; they are the rights most protective of all others, joined in this respect by the ability to vindicate one’s rights in a federal court. [. . .] [W]hen a plaintiff loses an opportunity to register a voter, the opportunity is gone forever. [. . .] And allowing responsible organizations to conduct voter-registration drives—thus making it easier for citizens to register and vote—promotes democracy.

The next hearing with Judge Hinkle is set for June 15.

Click here for more information from the parties involved in the case, and 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