The Florida voter purge list was a major topic at Netroots Nation 2012, with a high-profile panel moderated by The Nation’s Ari Berman. When we last left the story, the state’s election supervisors had shut down the purge, after the Department of Justice sent a letter warning that the purge violated at least two federal voting laws. It appeared at this point that Florida’s Governor and Secretary of State had little recourse than to quietly pull back. But that’s not what happened. Today, they announced a lawsuit to win the right to purge people from the state voter rolls, despite the barely veiled intent to use this to disenfranchise Democratic and Hispanic legal voters:
During an appearance on Fox News Monday afternoon, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced that the state will sue the Department of Homeland Security to obtain access to a database that it believes will provide more accurate information on the citizenship status of Florida voters.
“The Florida’s Secretary of State office will be filing a lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database,” Scott said. “We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and so we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.” The move comes after Scott disregarded a request from the Department of Justice on Wednesday to abandon efforts to purge eligible voters.
In a way, this concedes the point that the current system, where the voter rolls are checked against state DMV data, is flawed. But Florida Republicans have relied on the talking point that DHS is withholding the “real” data. For its part, the DHS said that their SAVE database would not be any more accurate, as it’s not intended to be a complete list of all documented and undocumented citizens in the country. DHS also said that they would not release the database until the Justice Department determined the legality of the purge.
I think the next step for DoJ is to go get an injunction of any restart of the purge efforts, and then settle it in the courts. Clearly Scott doesn’t want to back down, even while he has no elections supervisor in the state on his side. Setting the precedent that voter purges like this are illegal in states under the Voting Rights Act is worth having as well.