Justice Department tells Scott administration to stop purging voters

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Justice Department has asked Gov. Rick Scott's administration to stop a controversial voter purge effort, saying it appears to violate federal law.

DOJ officials gave Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who launched the purge of potential non-citizens in April, until June 6 to tell them what the state's plan is.

In April, Detzner sent Florida's 67 elections supervisors a list of more than 2,600 "non-citizens" flagged by matching the state voter registration database with driver's license records. The supervisors found that the list was riddled with errors. U.S.-born voters – including at least one war hero – and naturalized citizens were among those flagged. Many of the names on the list are Hispanic.

The purge set off a national firestorm over another in a long history of voting and elections scrapes in Florida. Civil rights groups and Democrats, including Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have asked Scott's administration to abandon the effort. And, citing faulty data, some local supervisors have dropped the scrub. This week, activists started an online petition asking DOJ to intervene. Throughout it all, Detzner has insisted he will continue with the purge and yesterday again asked the Department of Homeland Security for access to its database to ensure the data is more reliable.

In yesterday's letter, T. Christian Herren, chief of the DOJ's voting section, said the scrub appeared to violate at least two federal laws. Five counties in Florida require federal approval before any voting or election changes are made, but Detzner did not ask the DOJ or a federal court to sign off on the purge before he initiated it.

And federal voting laws prohibit any major voter scrub 90 days before an election. That deadline was May 16 for Florida's Aug. 14 primary.

Detzner doesn't appear to be backing down. His spokesman Chris Cate told The News Service of Florida late yesterday the agency is reviewing the letter but "we are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot."

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