Patt Morrison for June 13, 2012

The Department of Justice threatens legal action against Florida for its voter purge

Department Of Justice And FL Gov. Rick Scott Battle Over Controversial Non-Citizen Voter Purge

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida Governor Rick Scott greets people during a bill signing ceremony for House Bill 99, the Florida Safe Harbor Act and House Bill 7049, Human Trafficking, at the Kristi House in Miami. on June 12, 2012 in Miami, Florida. The Governor is in a legal battle with the U.S. Justice Department over the state's effort to remove non-U.S. citizens from lists of registered voters ahead of this year's presidential election.

The state of Florida has drawn a line in the sand about its right to purge its voter rolls, but the Department of Justice appears to have no qualms about crossing it.

On Monday, Gov. Rick Scott (R) went on record with Fox News, defending Florida’s controversial new program of citizenship verification. “We found individuals that are registered to vote that don’t have a right to vote, noncitizens, and they voted. I have a job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters,” said Scott.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez begs to differ; on May 31st the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division sent Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner a warning letter: the purge was taking place too close to Florida’s primary, in contradiction to federal law. When Florida refused to back down, the Civil Rights Division sent a second letter (dated June 11, 2012) informing the Detzner of the Department’s plans to initiate “an enforcement action” against Florida in federal court.

“One of Congress’s concerns in enacting the provisions of the [Voting Rights Act] and [National Voter Registration Act], and one of the Department’s concerns in enforcing federal law as enacted by Congress, is 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,” wrote Perez. “The federal statutes that the Department has called to Florida’s attention here are longstanding requirements of which the State is certainly aware.”

WEIGH IN:

Both sides argue they are protecting voters’ rights – which case do you think has the stronger argument?

Guest:

Marc Caputo, political writer, The Miami Herald


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