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Monday, Jun 4, 2012, 1:34 pm

Florida’s Voter Purge Slowed, Despite Intransigence of State Officials

By William Lineberry

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Despite an order last week from the Department of Justice that Florida stop its purge of allegedly ineligible voters, some state officials are standing firm. But at least two Florida counties have stopped removing voters from their rolls, according to CNN.

In a press release Friday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said he would not halt the purge, citing a responsibility to ensure that voters whom are unable to prove residence should not be allowed to vote.

But Florida election supervisors insisted they would not go ahead with the removal, noting that they had found flaws in the data used to identify non-citizens. 

Voters scheduled for removal were identified when state officials compared individuals' driver’s license records with voting records. After identifying 182,000 Florida voters whose records did not match, Detzner then notified 2,600 of those voters—largely minorities— through mail that they would be required to provide proof of citizenship within 30 days to be eligible to vote.

“We have an obligation to make sure the voter rolls are accurate and we are going to continue forward and do everything that we can legally do to make sure that ineligible voters cannot vote,” said Chris Cate, a spokesman for Detzner to The Huffington Post. “We are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot. We are not going to give up our efforts to make sure the voter rolls are accurate."

Multiple coalitions for voting – including League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote—have voiced concern and requested the process be stopped. These groups also requested an investigation by the Department of Justice into the purging process and the legality of the order. Last Thursday, a federal judge in Florida stated that some of the key provisions of the law that allows such practices should be terminated.

In a letter sent last week from the Department of Justice to Secretary of State Detzner, the department pronounced that the purge violates the Voting Rights Act of 1964.

"The Florida Secretary of State is being recalcitrant," said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of The Advancement Project, a Washington-based voting rights advocacy group that last month asked the Justice Department to investigate to The Huffington Post. "He wants to move forward despite federal notice of illegality and supervisors of elections' refusal to purge voters. He should just quit it."

The Florida ACLU noted that relying on the state’s driver’s license data to find non-citizens was particularly problematic, given the state’s history with voting purges.

“Based on Florida’s regrettable experience with voter purges,” said Howard Simon, ACLU of Florida’s executive director to The Miami Herald, “it would be a mistake to rely on the accuracy of the state’s data — especially data from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles that is acknowledged by the DHSMV to be out of date.”

According to The Miami Herald, while Hispanics make up only 13 percent of Florida's voting population, 60 percent of the voters notified in the purge were Hispanic. The Miami Herald’s analysis also found Democrats and “independent-minded voters” were also disproportionately targeted in the state’s data and that white, conservatives were less likely to be targeted.

“To say to already registered voters ‘come down and prove who you are,’ I’m not sure there’s anything in the law that says that,” said elections lawyer Mark Herron to The Miami Herald. “But I don’t think there’s anything in the law that prohibits this, either.”

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