Friday, June 01, 2012

Department of Justice Orders Rick Scott to Stop Voter Purge

Fri Jun 01, 2012   By Joan McCarter at DailyKos

The Department of Justice has ordered Florida Gov. Rick Scott to halt the purge of of voters from its rolls, a "clean-up" that Florida officials insist is necessary to prevent non-citizens from voting, but has proven to be targeted toward primarily Latino and Democratic voters.

T. Christian Herren, chief of the department's voting section, wrote in a detailed, two-page letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the state is in violation of both Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act, informing Detzner that the state had until next Wednesday, June 6 to respond. The Voting Rights Act requires that Florida get preclearance from the federal government before it makes changes to voting processes or procedures because of the history of racial discrimination in voting in five of the state's counties.

"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," Herren wrote.

"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." [...]

Herren also said that the National Voter Registration Act bans Florida’s effort because it says “a State shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.”

About 2,700 voters have received notification that the state has determined that they are not citizens and are thus ineligible to vote. They were given 30 days to provide proof of citizenship and restore their voter registration. For many, that 30 days will expire on June 9.

The state hasn't yet formally responded to the Justice Department, but initial statements indicate it will fight. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot,” said Chris Cate, spokesman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott to conduct the purge. In fact, prior to the DOJ intervention, the state said that it intends to expand the purge list, regardless of the high number of citizens it was disenfranchising.

The state has until Wednesday to respond. If it refuses to stop the purge, the DOJ can and probably will get a temporary restraining order imposed, and take the state to court.