Guest blogged by Ernest A. Canning
The state of Florida and it's Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) are knowingly violating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in their attempted purge of "potential non-citizens" from the Sunshine State voting rolls, according to a new federal lawsuit [PDF] filed by the ACLU and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
The complaint follows on the heels of a May 31, 2012 two-page letter submitted to FL election officials by T. Christian Herren, the chief lawyer of the U.S. Justice Department's Voting Rights Division. In his letter, Herren opined that the state's voter roll purge is in violation of Section 5 --- at least in the 6 Florida counties "covered" by that section --- because the state has not sought preclearance from either the DOJ or a federal court, as required by that section of the 40-year old federal law.
Additionally, the DOJ notes in its letter, the purge, coming as it does within the 90 days before Florida's federal primary election, is also in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) which covers the entire state.
In response, FL State Department spokesman Chris Cates initially said they would continue the purge nonetheless, as they were "firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot." In his official response to the DOJ a few days later, Detzner all but challenged the feds to bring a suit in order to stop the state from continuing their efforts.
Of the original 180,000 names identified by the state as potential non-citizens, out of some 11.3 million registered voters in the state of Florida, 2,700 were sent to county election officials with instructions to notify those voters that they had just 30 days to prove their citizenship or be removed from the rolls. As reported by the Christian Science Monitor, "Before heeding DOJ’s order to stop the purge" county election officials had identified just four noncitizens who "may have voted in past elections, making them potentially guilty of voter fraud," while clearing hundreds of voters who had, in fact, been legally registered voters. Hundreds of others may have been removed from the rolls, despite being legally registered citizen voters.
As The BRAD BLOG previously reported, Herren had demanded that FL officials "advise whether the State intends to cease the practice," but stopped short of issuing an actual "order" that FL immediately cease and desist. Such an order would have to come by way of an injunction issued by a U.S. District Court. The ACLU lawsuit now seeks that injunction even though, according to the Miami Herald, county elections supervisors across the state, led by Leon County's Ion Sancho, are now refusing to carry out a purge which Sancho describes as "illegal."
The ACLU lawsuit alleges facts that suggest the FL GOP is relying upon a FL Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DMV) database that it knows cannot provide an accurate basis for establishing non-citizenship until 2017.
Unfortunately, this year's purge in Florida continues a tradition that has been affecting legal voters in Florida --- and, along with them, the rest of the nation --- cycle after cycle since at least the 2000 election...