The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Florida on Tuesday alleging violations of the national voter registration act. This action follows Florida’s own lawsuit against the Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security for refusing the state access to the federal database that could help identify who is a citizen and who is a non-citizen. Florida wants access this information in order to purge their voter rolls of individuals who cannot lawfully vote in the United States. (H/T KANSASCITY.COM)
Gov. Rick Scott and the Obama administration traded legal barbs and counter-accusations Monday as each side announced it would sue the other over Florida’s controversial non-citizen voter purge.
Scott’s chief elections official sued first, filing a federal lawsuit in Washington that accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of unlawfully refusing Florida access to a federal database that could help the state spot and remove noncitizens from the voter rolls.
“We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer,” Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said. “We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”
The state says it has found 87 noncitizens on the voter rolls so far, at least 47 of whom may have unlawfully cast ballots. More than 500 others have been identified as actual citizens and lawful voters.
Moments after the state filed suit, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez roared back in a sharply worded five-page letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, which ordered the state two weeks ago to stop the purge because it could violate two federal voting laws.
Below is the press release sent out by the Justice Department this afternoon:
JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FILES LAWSUIT AGAINST FLORIDA
ALLEGING VIOLATIONS OF THE NATIONAL VOTER REGISTRATION ACT
WASHINGTON - The Department of Justice announced today that it has filed a lawsuit against the state of Florida and the Florida Secretary of State in his official capacity alleging that the state has violated its obligations under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
The complaint, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida, alleges that Florida has violated the NVRA by conducting a systematic program to purge voters from its voter registration rolls within the 90-day quiet period before an election for federal office established by the law. In addition, the complaint alleges that Florida’s use of inaccurate and unreliable voter verification procedures violates the requirement in Section 8 of the NVRA that any such program be uniform and nondiscriminatory.
“The Department of Justice has an overriding interest in protecting the rights of eligible citizens to register and vote free from unlawful burdens, while at the same time ensuring that ineligible persons do not register and vote in federal elections in violation of the law,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The department is committed to enforcing the National Voter Registration Act so that these objectives are met.”
The lawsuit seeks a court order declaring that the defendants have failed to comply with the requirements of Section 8 of the NVRA, and enjoining Florida from taking any further steps in connection with this list purge program.
“Congress enacted the NVRA against a historical backdrop in this country in which purge programs initiated close to elections prevented and deterred eligible citizens from casting ballots,” said Assistant Attorney General Perez. “The 90-day quiet period in the NVRA protects eligible voters from being dropped from the rolls right before an election. It appears that Florida has undertaken a new program for voter removal within this 90-day period that has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters.”
More information about the NVRA and other federal voting laws is available on the Department of Justice website at www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/. Complaints about discriminatory voting practices may be reported to the Voting Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division at 1-800-253-3931.