Voting Rights Challenge Florida Voter Purge

Posted By: Josh Spaulding

Post Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Today, the Fair Elections Legal Network (FELN), along with the Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Project Vote filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida challenging the legality of the program because it is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).  Last month, FELN along with five other organizations, sent a letter to Secretary of State Ken Dentzer, asking the state to discontinue the voter purge.

The lawsuit challenges the legality of the program because it is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting. It is also in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA). Section 8 of the NVRA states that programs that systematically remove voters must be completed 90 days before a federal election. Florida will hold congressional primaries on August 14, 2012; therefore, the 90 day period began on May 16, 2012. Continuing to engage in the program, as Governor Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Dentzer have confirmed the state will, is in violation of the protections the NVRA provides to eligible voters.

Almost all county election officials have halted removing voters under this program unless notified from an individual that they should be removed because of the high error rate with the list. County election officials believe this list of alleged non-citizens is unreliable and could potentially cause eligible voters to be removed from the voting rolls.

Questioning the registration status of eligible voters, particularly with a list that is as bad as Florida’s, so close to an election creates confusion among voters and election officials that cannot be immediately resolved and does not provide enough time to remedy errors or incorrect removal of eligible voters.

So far, over 500 of those on the list have shown documentation that they are citizens and eligible to vote. This causes a great deal of concern. The right to vote is fundamental to our democracy. Florida officials should take the time and care necessary to ensure that eligible citizens are not crossed off the voter list. Once you lose the right to vote, you cannot get that vote back.  

Additionally, the list of 2,700 names disproportionately targets minorities – including Hispanics and Haitian Americans. Minorities comprise 87 percent of the targeted voters on the list. Any program that singles out specific groups of people and creates extra burdens – producing documentation to proof their eligibility to vote – should be abandoned.

There are strict procedures on the books to ensure that the voter rolls can be accurate and up-to-date. However, Florida’s program fails to comply with those strict rules that are in place to prevent eligible voters from being removed from the voter rolls. Florida should not repeat the mistakes from the past, like in the 2000 election when thousands of eligible voters were removed from the voter rolls, and stop this program so eligible voters aren’t turned away from the polls this election.