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Jun 11 2012

Florida Rejects DOJ Warning on Voter Purges

The DOJ recently sent a letter to the state of Florida telling them that their purges of suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls are likely in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act, but the state is defying that letter. This sets up an inevitable court fight.

Florida election officials responded late Wednesday to a Department of Justice warning to quit purging suspected non-citizens from state voter rolls with an unapologetic explanation and no agreement to stop.

The letter Florida sent to the Justice Department met a deadline set by the federal government late last month, but will likely trigger an extended legal battle between the state and federal governments and advocacy organizations. Florida’s response cited a medley of laws governing voting and used language strikingly similar to that of conservative advocacy groups claiming widespread voter fraud threatens the integrity of national elections.

If the U.S. blocks the purge, the federal government may be in violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, Florida told the Justice Department. Non-citizen votes would dilute the votes of citizens, the letter claimed. “Presumably eligible voters in Florida have the right to bring a lawsuit in federal court to test whether their votes are being unconstitutionally denied by the federal government,” if the purge isn’t allowed, Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote in the letter.

That’s pretty much just empty bluster. Those who have had their voting rights threatened will be the ones who have a suit against the state, as will the federal government under long-established law. Out of the original list of 3,000 people who received letters in the first phase of the purge, hundreds of them went to people who are U.S. citizens and eligible to vote. If your list is that inaccurate, you need to find a better way.

This response from voting rights advocates strikes me as a bit naive:

Groups defending voting rights of poor and minority voters said Florida appears determined to suppress minority voters.

”Unfortunately, the governor has not learned the lessons from the 2000 election, when thousands of eligible voters were purged from the rolls as a result of bad data matching and denied their right to vote,” said Robert Brandon, president of the Fair Election Legal Network, in a statement.

On the contrary, the governor has absolutely learned the lesson of the 2000 election. That lesson is that these voter purges do exactly what they are intended to do, which is to prevent enough people from voting to potentially swing an election.

12 comments

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  1. 1
    Tualha

    Oh yes, a court fight. With five months to go. That’ll fix the problem in time, all right.

  2. 2
    Kevin, 友好火猫 (Friendly Fire Cat)

    Well there is good news. County elections officials (even Republican ones) are refusing to cooperate with the purge. The governor of Florida can do all he wants to complain about illegal votes, but the county elections officials are the only ones who can strike the names from the roster.

    They realize it’s illegal, and they don’t want to be arrested.

  3. 3
    d cwilson

    Apparently, all 67 county election officials are now a united front in refusing to carry out the purges. I don’t see a way for Governor Golum to win this one.

  4. 4
    EricJohansson

    My Senator Bill Nelson sent an email out to constituents criticizing the purge and announcing his plan to fight against it.

    In the letter he linked to this article about a 91-year-old Hispanic man (and registered Democrat) who fought in WW 2, and was told he is now listed as a non-citizen and must prove his citizenship.

    http://goo.gl/AG7pX

    If anyone has standing this guy does.

  5. 5
    thisisaturingtest

    “Presumably eligible voters in Florida have the right to bring a lawsuit in federal court to test whether their votes are being unconstitutionally denied by the federal government,” if the purge isn’t allowed, Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote in the letter.

    That would be an interesting court case. “Your Honor, our clients’ constitutional rights were denied by the federal government, when the state was blocked from denying the constitutional rights of others!”
    Somebody remind me- is it Eastasia or Eurasia we’re at war with?

  6. 6
    Ben P

    That would be an interesting court case. “Your Honor, our clients’ constitutional rights were denied by the federal government, when the state was blocked from denying the constitutional rights of others!”

    I think you have it backwards.

    I would suspect this is precisely why the county officials are refusing to participate.

    The florida secretary of state and governor can issue the orders, but if County Clerk X makes the decision that Voter Y is ineligible and removes him from the voter roles, and then Voter Y is unlawfully denied the right to vote, it’s the Counter Clerk’s office that is on the chopping block.

    If anyone has standing this guy does.

    Still possibly not.

    If someone were properly registered and then unlawfully had their registration stripped and were denied the right to vote, that would be a drop dead violation.

    On the other hand, just having your name questioned, then reinstated might not rise to the level of a constitutional injury.

    The interesting case would be if a plaintiff could prove the officials were, say, specifically targeting hispanic names on the voter rolls, then you’d have an interesting discrimination/voter intimidation case.

  7. 7
    sc_971a13ed081fe55ce520bf693fc9354a

    Isn’t this why you have federal marshals? A court fight can of course drag out until after the election. And then the case gets withdrawan, when Romney wins. I’m sure that’s the plan. There is imminent danger of thousands of people being denied the right to vote. If you don’t send in the marshal’s for that, then what do we have a government for? Is it just to have them go through the motions, until it’s too late?

  8. 8
    Ben P

    Isn’t this why you have federal marshals? A court fight can of course drag out until after the election. And then the case gets withdrawan, when Romney wins. I’m sure that’s the plan. There is imminent danger of thousands of people being denied the right to vote. If you don’t send in the marshal’s for that, then what do we have a government for? Is it just to have them go through the motions, until it’s too late?

    You can’t just randomly send in the federal marshals, rule of law and all that. A Court would have to order it.

    Given at least one federal court has ruled the purge is likely to violate rights and is impermissible, the stage is already set, but the party would have to ask that the ruling be upheld pending appeal and that the federal government take action to enforce the ruling. Then the Marshals might become involved if the state doesn’t coperate.

  9. 9
    thisisaturingtest

    @#6, Ben P:
    Ok, bear with me here, but…how do I have it backwards?

  10. 10
    d cwilson

    That would be an interesting court case. “Your Honor, our clients’ constitutional rights were denied by the federal government, when the state was blocked from denying the constitutional rights of others!”

    It would fun to see them even try. They’d have to show that a sufficient number of ineligible voters were able to cast votes in the upcoming election to effective “dilute” the votes of eligible voters. Given that the total number of cases of actual voter fraud in Florida’s history can be counted on one hand, they’d have a hard time making their case.

    They can start by investigating the one person who is known to have committed voter fraud in Florida: Ann Coulter.

  11. 11
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    For any Floridian who is concerned and reading this, you can check here for your voting status:

    http://registration.elections.myflorida.com/CheckVoterStatus

  12. 12
    Ben P

    @#6, Ben P:
    Ok, bear with me here, but…how do I have it backwards?

    Backwards isn’t quite right, but you sort of described a third suit.

    The letter by Florida’s AG (which is complete bullshit IMO) suggests that a Florida Citizen could sue claiming that their vote is being diluted by illegal votes.

    The suit would be BS not because it’s terribly unique. Voter dilution suits as it relates to race aren’t terribly uncommon. It’s silly because anyone who honestly evaluates the evidence would pretty much have to conclude that the mere question that someone might be on the voter roll who is otherwise ineligible couldn’t amount to an actual voter dilution claim.

    On the other hand, someone who is stricken from the voter rolls and prohibited from voting would have a very real civil rights claim.

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