Federal judge hands Gov. Scott voter purge victoryby Dara Kam | June 27th, 2012
A federal judge denied the U.S. Department of Justice’s request for an emergency restraining order to halt Florida’s non-citizen voter purge and said the controversial scrub does not violate federal law.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle heard arguments this morning from the Justice Department and Michael Carvin, a Washington lawyer representing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration. Carvin was one of the lead lawyers for President George W. Bush in the protracted 2000 recount legal wrangle.
Hinkle denied the request for the emergency stop to the program in part because he said the state was no longer doing it.
But he also rejected Justice Department attorney John Bert Russ’s argument that the non-citizen voter purge violates federal law.
He also chided both administrations, saying the “federal government and the state government ought to be working together” to ensure honest elections.
Wednesday’s hearing is the first of multiple lawsuits over the voter purge. Scott is suing the Department of Homeland Security over access to a federal database the state contends would allow them to create a less error-prone list than the Secretary of State Ken Detzner distributed to county supervisors in April.
While he denied the emergency restraining order, Judge Hinkle allowed the lawsuit to move forward.
And he put Detzner on notice that he would be available for future emergency hearings if the state “ramps up” the voter purge without making sure the list was less error-riddled.
Scott insists that no citizens have been wrongly removed from the voting rolls as a result of the purge but that about 100 non-citizens were found to have been registered to vote.
Many of the 2,600 flagged individuals on the list given out in April turned out to be naturalized citizens and therefore eligible to vote, Hinkle noted.
“Questioning someone’s citizenship unnecessarily is not as trivial as the state would have it,” Hinkle scolded. “But leaving an ineligible voter on the list is not a solution. People need to know we are running an honest election.”