A little over a week ago, I wrote about Florida’s importance in the upcoming election, and the efforts of the Republican governor there to disenfranchise Floridians who are likely to vote Democratic. There have been further developments in the story.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has filed a lawsuit in an effort to block Governor Rick Scott’s attempt to purge minorities from the voter rolls. In response, Governor Scott announced his intent to sue the Department of Homeland Security to gain access to a database he says will assist his efforts.
Governor Scott’s controversial program is intended, he says, to ensure that non-citizens in Florida don’t vote. The state is matching information on driver’s licenses (which often includes citizenship status) against lists of registered voters. Over 2,600 letters were sent — 87 percent to African-Americans and Hispanics — informing selected voters that they would be dropped from the voting rolls unless they could prove their citizenship within thirty days. Many of the people indicated as non-citizens on their licenses have since become citizens, and simply not altered their records. In Miami-Dade County, forty of those receiving notice have been shown to be non-citizens. More than five hundred have already supplied proof of citizenship, providing (so far) more than a ten-to-one ratio of false positives.
DOJ has pointed out that Florida is one of sixteen states with a proven history of suppressing minority votes. According to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, these states may alter neither their voting procedures nor their voter registration laws without federal approval. Since this attempted purge of the voting lists was not preapproved, it is illegal.
Furthermore, federal law prohibits any state from removing voters from the rolls within ninety days of an election — and Florida has a primary coming up on August 14. There is nothing about Governor Scott’s efforts that is either reasonable or legal, and the DOJ has ordered him to stop.
Other organizations are also weighing in. A Hispanic civic organization and two naturalized citizens — backed by the The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) — have also filed suit to halt the voter purge, and specifically named Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner as a defendant. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL) and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, LLP, have joined the suit.
As of a few days ago, county election officials throughout Florida have halted efforts to comply with Governor Scott’s voter purge. Vicki Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, said, “Too many voters on the state’s list turned out to actually be citizens.”
None of this deters Governor Scott, who has pledged to forge ahead, and has accused the Department of Justice of “stonewalling” his program. Despite the Voting Rights Act, and despite violating the law by removing voters too close to an election, the Governor has announced plans to sue the Department of Homeland Security for access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, to allow him to continue purging registered voters. This is neither the purpose nor the intended use of this database, so Florida has been denied permission to use it. Additionally, “Justice officials said it takes more than a name or birthdate to prove a match in the federal immigration database and that Florida has already conceded it doesn’t have the right data.”
We often hear of Republican desires for “tort reform,” to stem the tide of frivolous lawsuits clogging our judicial system. Governor Scott’s suit should be considered a standard-bearer in this regard.
In 2000, thousands of registered voters, most of them black, were turned away from Florida’s polls. Voting machines in Florida’s heavily Democratic and Jewish districts registered a surprisingly large number of votes for independent candidate Pat Buchanan. Buchanan himself stated that he believed most of those votes were intended for Vice President Al Gore. These and other irregularities gave Governor George W. Bush enough votes to give America eight years of his administration. It seems clear that Rick Scott is attempting to manufacture a similar outcome for former Governor Mitt Romney.
This drama is far from over. Stay tuned.
- Florida and feds sue each other over noncitizen purge controversy(miamiherald.com)
- Florida’s voter purge sparks lawsuits between state and feds(kansascity.com)
- Rick Scott to Sue DHS for Access to Immigration Data for Voter Purge List(news.firedoglake.com)
- Department of Justice Sues Florida Over Voter Purge(theobamacrat.com)
- Cruzin’ for a Bruzin’
- Supreme Court Watch: Salinas v. Texas
- Supreme Court Watch: Shelby County v. Holder
- Supreme Court Watch: Missouri v. McNeely
- Gravis Marketing: A Deeper Analysis
- Ballot Watch: The South (Part 2, The Swinging South)
- Shot to the Foot
- Ballot Watch: Obamacare
- The Battle for Florida
- Rights Wronged
About dcpetterson (186 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson