DOJ, Florida in Dueling Lawsuits Over Voter Purge

By: Jim Saunders, Michael Peltier and David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: Jim Saunders, Michael Peltier and David Royse, The News Service of Florida


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 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.



Jim Saunders, Michael Peltier and David Royse, The News Service of Florida

The U.S. Department of Justice said Monday it will go to federal court to block Florida's controversial effort to purge ineligible voters, ratcheting up a feud between the Obama administration and Gov. Rick Scott.

Word of the Department of Justice's planned lawsuit came on the same day that Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to gain access to a federal database in the ongoing effort to remove ineligible voters from statewide registration rolls.

In a five-page letter, however, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said Florida is not complying with federal laws aimed at "ensuring that state efforts to find and purge ineligible persons from voter registration lists do not endanger the ability of eligible U.S. citizens to register to vote and maintain their voter registration status."

"The federal statutes that the department has called to Florida's attention here are longstanding requirements of which the state is certainly aware," Perez wrote in the letter addressed to Detzner. "Because the state has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court."

The controversy stems from the state Division of Elections earlier this year sending a list of about 2,600 names of potentially illegal voters to local supervisors of elections. The division used what it has acknowledged was an imperfect list put together from a state Highway Safety database of people who had a certain degree of likelihood to be in the country illegally.

Detzner said the agency would have liked to have sent a more reliable list but couldn't get access to the federal Department of Homeland Security database. Local officials, he stressed, would ultimately be the ones to purge those voters who didn't respond to a letter questioning their status.

But in the last few days, the Division of Elections released a list of the names of 86 voters it says have been removed by local supervisors because they were non-citizens between April 11 and June 8. About half of them are listed as having voted.

Detzner filed a lawsuit Monday in federal court in the District of Columbia to seek to force the federal agency to share citizenship information. Detzner said the state has been trying for nearly a year to gain access to DHS’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database, which tracks citizenship and alien status.

"We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer," Detzner said in a statement. "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."

But in the letter Monday, Perez said the state had not provided needed information to be able to use the SAVE database. The letter said that information involves what are known as alien registration numbers or certificate numbers found on immigration documents.

"In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE program is simply wrong,'' Perez wrote. "By your own admission, Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE program can verify naturalized and derived United States citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers, and where necessary, the underlying documentation."

The Department of Justice lawsuit likely will center on two federal voting laws, the National Voter Registration Act and the Voting Rights Act.

Department officials argue that the National Voter Registration Act prevents states from systematically purging voters within 90 days of an election. With Florida hold primary elections Aug. 14, that 90-day period would have started May 16.

The Voting Rights Act, meanwhile, requires Florida to get approval from the U.S. attorney general or a federal court before making election changes in five counties that have a history of discrimination. Florida has not received such approval for the purge effort.

Despite the Department of Justice arguments, Scott has continued to push the effort --- and has received hundreds of e-mails in support from across the country.

"My job is to enforce the laws of Florida," Scott said on Fox News on Monday. "I'm the governor of Florida. That is what I got elected to do. I expect every other elected official to do their job and I expect they will."
Opponents of the purge have criticized it as too broad-brushed, and note that the 86 voters identified as ineligible would only be about one-third of one percent of all those on the list sent to supervisors.

It's also not clear how many of the 86 voters were among the 2,600 names that have been sent to local supervisors of elections for possible removal.

Local press reports have said some of the voters who have been removed in recent weeks were taken off voter rolls after they voluntarily came forward or were sought out by local officials not using the list sent to them by the state. For example, the Palm Beach Post reported that the one purged voter from Palm Beach County who was removed, Anabel Gomez, had to have come to the local supervisors and asked to be removed, because the local supervisor, Democrat Susan Bucher, never sent out any letters seeking to remove voters identified by the state.

It is a felony for non-citizens to register to vote, and at least some of those removed are likely to face charges if local prosecutors pursue them.

Of the 86 registered voters the state said local supervisors had removed in the last couple months, more than half – 44 of them – were in Lee County. No other county came close – Miami-Dade was next with 15 – suggesting the Lee County Supervisor of Elections office was much more aggressive during the period in culling the voter rolls of ineligible voters.

While the names on the list do suggest that many of those purged are Hispanic, many of them have names that suggest they're not, from Ardalan Heshmat in Alachua County to Lyudmyla Oleynikova, Stacey Lewis and Margaret White in Lee County.

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  • by 62nitro Location: Tallahassee on Jun 13, 2012 at 08:35 AM
    NAACP executive Lessadolla Sowers -democrat-Mississippi, is sitting in prison right now, and will be there for the next 10 years for voter fraud in 08. It took 3 years to finally get a conviction. She used the names of 4 dead people and 6 that are still alive, so you can't say it doesn't happen. There were 7 convictions of democrats [ ACORN ] committing voter fraud in Miami-Dade in 2009. Just the tip of the iceberg, folks. Many more have been caught but have not been be continued.....
  • by REALLY??? on Jun 13, 2012 at 07:45 AM
    All of the Obammy voters here are shown by their complete and utter ignorance of the law. Oh, wait, i forget, laws only apply to 'some' people.
  • by Judd on Jun 13, 2012 at 04:56 AM
    The unconvicted felon and the morally bankrupt republican legislature should be criminally prosecuted for their systemic attempt to deny Florida citizens from voting. Since these individuals have deliberately and with malice aforethought have conspired and continue to pose a threat of continued criminal activity they should be prosecuted under the Federal RICO act.
    • reply
      by 62nitro on Jun 13, 2012 at 12:06 PM in reply to Judd
      Very well stated, but that is a bunch of baloney. If for some reason you get to your polling station on Election Day and find out you have been wrongfully purged from the system, you can fill out a provisional ballot that will be stored until you can prove that you were wrongfully deleted from the rolls. Your vote will still count and you might want to thank Jeb Bush for signing that bill into law so that nobody LEGALLY registered is denied a vote. You’re welcome.
  • by You People are Morons Location: Crawfordville on Jun 13, 2012 at 03:18 AM
    The DOJ (term used loosely)is fighting Florida purging NON-Citizens registered to vote. How is this a problem? Why do you idiots think people that are not citizen should be allowed to vote. This has nothing to do with race, absolutely nothing. Are we as a state going to be as stupid as Ohio voters and voter for State Bankruptcy? I see so many comments that from people that have no earthly idea what is going on around them. Rick Scott is not the problem, your ignorance is far more dangerous.
    • reply
      by Bubba on Jun 13, 2012 at 06:51 AM in reply to You People are Morons
      So speaks the Moron. What a patsy you are.
    • reply
      by Ignorance is right on Jun 13, 2012 at 07:42 AM in reply to You People are Morons
      Ignorance is right. According to NPR (the liberal bastion) Scott's office has been trying for "many months" to get the advertised as accurate and up to date database from the Feds (Eric Holder) and they have steadfastly REFUSED to provide it. This action on behalf of the Governor is an act of desperation, not defiance. 'course, you will never find that information in a story written by a cousin or a criminal. . . or by an employee of Mike Vascilinda (that name sound familiar?).
  • by grady on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:23 PM
    there is no debate here, what scott is doing is ILLEGAL. clearly spelled out in law, there are legal time limits before an election which make such a purge ILLEGAL. if he continues to defy the law, charges should be brought up. plain and simple.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 05:02 AM in reply to grady
      I can show you the statutes where what he is trying to accomplish is legal and in fact having correct voting rolls is required. Not doing your homework but go find then yourself liberal full of wrong facts again
  • by Gordon Gekko on Jun 12, 2012 at 02:52 PM
    What's the point? Romney is such a phony. How in the world is this guy going to be elected?
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 03:30 PM in reply to Gordon Gekko
      they said the same thing about obama
      • reply
        by Gordon Gekko on Jun 12, 2012 at 06:34 PM in reply to
        Actually "they" said exactly the opposite. Obama had the same magic as Reagan, which is why McConnell, aka The Turtle, vowed to destroy his presidency, and therefore America, from day one.
        • reply
          by You People are Morons on Jun 13, 2012 at 04:09 AM in reply to Gordon Gekko
          Magic is an illusion of reality. It is apparent you do not have much of a grasp on it. Reagan was as far above Obama as mankind is above an amoeba. Any education you have received was for the most part, Wasted! You are a marionette for the left.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 05:03 AM in reply to Gordon Gekko
          Reagan collapsed communism and had a booming economy.... no magic in Obama
  • by holly on Jun 12, 2012 at 11:20 AM
    rick scott is in office so now he wants to crack down, some of these so-called illegal voters got him in place, now that his credibility is shot to hell he doesnt want to deal with democrats...... even if he does. Mitt Romney will not win
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 01:11 PM in reply to holly
      barack obama is in office so now he wants to crack down, some of these so-called illegal voters got him in place, now that his credibility is shot to hell he doesnt want to deal with republicans...... even if he does Charlie Crist will not win
      • reply
        by Neo on Jun 12, 2012 at 02:49 PM in reply to
        Squawk! Squawk! Polly want a quacker?
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Jun 13, 2012 at 05:03 AM in reply to Neo
          got food stamps so I buy candy and cokes
  • by Anonymous on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:19 AM
    Barack Obama's jobs plan; get sued and get sued often. The crook sure keep's the state lawyers busy. How much taxpayer money is this going to cost? Why don't Barack leave us alone and the lawsuits go away?
    • reply
      by Neo on Jun 12, 2012 at 12:27 PM in reply to
      Well, we know you're a talented parrot. You must work for the RNC. Just grab the tail in front of you and follow. Any other skills? Steal elections? Are you one of those Brooks Brothers thugs from 2000?
  • by REALLY??? on Jun 12, 2012 at 10:16 AM
    WHAT IS OBAMA AFRAID OF? doesn't he already have the votes of blacks, illegals and homosexuals?
    • reply
      by senior on Jun 12, 2012 at 03:32 PM in reply to REALLY???
      Don't forget his idiot Hollywood friends! He has them in his pocket, too.
  • by Widower Location: Wakulla on Jun 12, 2012 at 09:01 AM
    Rick Scott's jobs plan; get sued and get sued often. The crook sure keep's the state lawyers busy. How much taxpayer money is this going to cost?
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