The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered the state of Florida to halt its purge of suspected non-U.S. citizens from its voter rolls, Talking Points Memo reports.
TPM reports that a letter from the Civil Rights Division was delivered to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, ordering a halt to the review of some 182,000 registered voters across all 67 of the state’s counties. The reason: five of those counties are subject to restrictions under the Voting Rights Act, and the DOJ has not pre-cleared the purge, which was ordered by Gov. Rick Scott.
DOJ also said that Florida’s voter roll purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which stipulates that voter roll maintenance should have ceased 90 days before an election, which given Florida’s August 14 primary, meant May 16.
Five of Florida’s counties are subject to the Voting Rights Act, but the state never sought permission from either the Justice Department or a federal court to implement its voter roll maintenance program. Florida officials said they were trying to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls, but a flawed process led to several U.S. citizens being asked to prove their citizenship status or be kicked off the rolls.
Six members of Congress wrote Gov. Rick Scott earlier this week demanding that he stop purging the state’s voting rolls since the process improperly flagged numerous individuals who were eligible to vote.
The move comes the same week a judge blocked part of Florida’s broad voter law, which shortened the early vote period, and imposed a 48-hour time limit for organizations who register voters in the state to turn in those registrations, or face stiff fines or even criminal charges. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle called for a temporary halt to the time limit portion of the law, which had prompted major organizations like the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote to cease voter registration efforts in the state.
Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, told theGrio on Wednesday that the state’s second largest county, after Miami-Dade, sent out 259 letters to registered voters flagged by the Secretary of State’s Division of Elections. Of those, Broward Elections received 8 responses, of which 6 people provided documentation of their citizenship, 2 indicated they were not citizens, and the rest have yet to respond. Cooney said those who receive a letter from the elections office are required to respond within 30 days from receipt of the notice by certified mail, and that if letters are returned undeliverable, those people will be notified via a newspaper ad.
For example, the six individuals for whom we received responses, had they not responded, then they would have been removed through the process. We are continuing to reach out to the people who have not responded to us, making sure that they take some sort of action.
Cooney said the elections office routinely vets its list, but that this was the first time they were required to do so in order to weed out potential non-citizens, rather than people who have moved, changed their names, or died.
Cooney said the purge list was sent by the Florida Division of Elections to all 67 counties in Florida. “Some counties didn’t have anybody on their list, but we did,” she said, adding that, had the six voters who provided documentation not responded, they would have been rendered unable to vote, as has already happened to a World War II veteran.
Other supervisors of elections have expressed concerns about the data — concerns echoed by the former Florida secretary of state, Kurt Browning, who resigned in February. One supervisor, in Palm Beach County, rejected the data altogether as too flawed to be credible.