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Justice Department to monitor primary elections in 5 FL counties

Monday, August 13th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice, suing Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over his voter purge of non-citizens, will monitor elections tomorrow in five Florida counties tomorrow to make sure Spanish-speaking voters aren’t discriminated against and get the help they need.

Two of the five counties – Collier and Hendry – are among jurisdictions covered under the 1965 Voting Rights Act that had a history of discrimination. The other three counties – Lee, Osceola and Polk – are required to provide Spanish-language ballots and have Spanish-speaking poll workers to help voters.

“The Voting Rights Act prohibits discrimination in the election process on the basis of race, color or membership in a minority language group. In addition, the act requires certain covered jurisdictions to provide language assistance during the election process. Collier, Hendry, Lee, Osceola and Polk Counties, as well as the city of Milwaukee, are required to provide language assistance in Spanish,” the Justice Department said in a press release issued this morning.

Osceola County is apparently under federal scrutiny due to a history of problems related to Hispanic voters, according to the county’s supervisor Mary Jane Arrington. The county made a settlement with the Justice Department a decade ago and avoided a federal lawsuit by agreeing to give Hispanic voters help casting their ballots.

“We’ve had problems in the past. They’ve been corrected but I think they’re just here checking to make sure we’re performing as we should. We certainly welcome their scrutiny,” Arrington, who was elected as supervisor in 2008, said.

Arrington said the Justice Department lawyer told her the federal oversight has nothing to do with Scott’s voter purge in which state officials tried to scrub the voting rolls of noncitzens.

Hendry County Supervisor of Elections Lucretia Strickland said she did not ask the Justice Department why she was being monitored and that the feds had overseen elections in her county previously.

“It doesn’t matter to me. If they want to monitor, I’m certainly going to let them,” Strickland said. “If they would like to observe, I don’t’ have any problem with that.”

Collier County Supervisor of Elections Jennifer Edwards said she is meeting with a Justice Department lawyer later today to learn more about why her county was targeted.

In Polk County, the federal scrutiny was apparently sparked by Spanish-language ballots being offered for the first time, a source said.

Eleven counties in Florida, including Palm Beach, are required to provide Spanish-language ballots because of their Hispanic populations. The counties must also have at least one Spanish-speaking poll worker to provide assistance to voters and conduct bi-lingual voter education.

The Justice Department has monitored elections throughout the country, including in Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia and New York.

Justice Department demand voter purge data from 9 counties, including Palm Beach, in lawsuit against Scott

Thursday, August 9th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher was among nine county elections supervisors subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice as part of its lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over his non-U.S. citizen voter purge.

The demand for documents and other information is part of the discovery process in the lawsuit, scheduled to drag on past the Nov. 6 general election and into next year. The subpoenas went out to supervisors in Bay, Broward, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami Dade, Orange, Palm Beach, and Pinellas counties.

It’s unclear why Bucher, who she said received the subpoena on July 31, was included in the dragnet. She never did anything with the list of 115 Palm Beach County voters flagged as potential non-citizens by Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s office in March.

But the Justice Department lawyers demanded all documents or information related to the voter purge, dreamed up by Scott and launched by Detzner this spring. Detzner’s office sent out a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizens to the state’s 67 supervisors of elections, instructing the local officials to send letters to the flagged voters and ask them to prove they are citizens. Bucher and many other supervisors balked after some elections officials found the lists included the names of voters who had become naturalized citizens or were even born in the U.S. In one highly publicized case, a Broward County World War II Bronze Medal hero was identified as potentially being ineligible to vote.

Bucher is sending a letter to the DOJ telling them she didn’t participate in the voter purge and is handing over a copy of the disk containing the list of 115 Palm Beach County voters provided to her by Detzner, she said. The DOJ asked the supervisors to give them the information by Aug. 15, the day after Florida’s primary on Tuesday.

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DOJ joins lawsuit against Florida over voter purge

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice is asking a federal three-judge panel to stop Gov. Rick Scott’s controversial voter purge as Florida is working with another of President Obama’s administration to revamp the process.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner had asked the Tampa-based judges to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that he stopped the flawed voter purge process in April. But on Friday, the two civil rights group that filed the lawsuit amended their complaint, making Detzner’s request moot. The state department is expected to revise its request for a dismissal.

The Department of Justice on Friday joined the two civil rights groups in the lawsuit, filing a “statement of interest” and asking the judges to refuse to dismiss the case filed by the ACLU of Florida and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law in federal court in Tampa on behalf of two Hispanic voters and Mi Familia Vota.

The DOJ is fighting its own lawsuit against Scott over the controversial voter purge in a separate federal case in Tallahassee. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle handed Scott a victory late last month in that case, refusing to grant an emergency injunction halting the purge – already on hold – and noting that the scrubbing of the voter rolls, although problematic, did not appear to break the law. Hinkle, however, let the Tallahassee case proceed.

Detzner’s office technically halted the voter purge after an initial list of potential non-citizens flagged by matching driver license and voting records proved problematic. The list of about 2,600 potential non-citizens distributed to county supervisors wrongfully flagged voters who were naturalized citizens and even some U.S.-born voters.

After months of getting nowhere, Detzner finally got the Department of Homeland Security to grant access to the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database, and is again moving forward with the purge.

But the state hasn’t received the federal “preclearance” required for voting changes in five counties – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – covered under Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act, the DOJ and the groups challenging the purge argued. The preclearance is required for some jurisdictions that have a history of discrimination against minorities.

“The State of Florida has adopted a new database matching program that results in registered voters being removed from the voter rolls,” Deputy Attorney General Eric Perez wrote in the statement of interest. “This new practice has not been submitted for administrative or judicial preclearance pursuant to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), and despite a lack of preclearance, the change has been implemented in Florida’s covered counties subject to Section 5.”

The state needs to get preclearance for the five covered counties for the new database matching process before the purge can move forward, Perez wrote.

Federal judge hands Gov. Scott voter purge victory

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012 by Dara Kam

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.”

Hispanic voter battle: Moveon.org launches TV ad telling Romney to condemn the purge

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

Moveon.org is launching a television ad in Florida urging Latino voters to tell presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney to “condemn the racist voter purge” now being defended by Gov. Rick Scott in federal court.

The TV ad, scheduled to air in Tallahassee next week, is part of a national effort to drum up support from Hispanic voters for President Obama in the November election.

Yesterday, a plane towing a banner reading “ROMNEY: CONDENA LA PURGA DE VOTANTES LATINOS” (Translation: “Romney: Condemn the Latino voter purge”) flew over Orlando where Romney addressed the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials annual conference.

Hispanics comprise the majority of a list of 2,700 potential non-citizen voters sent to elections supervisors by Secretary of State Ken Detzner in April. The controversial voter purge is the subject of three federal lawsuits challenging Scott and another by Scott against the Obama administration for failing to grant access to a federal database. The flagged voters turned out to include many were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran who said he was born in Brooklyn.

Not dead Gov. Scott told election officials ‘I’m really alive’

Thursday, June 14th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott told a radio station this morning that he had to cast a provisional ballot six years ago because elections officials in his home county of Collier thought he was dead, The Associated Press reported.

Here’s the AP story by Gary Fineout:

Florida Gov. Rick Scott knows what it’s like to be told that he’s dead and not registered to vote.

The Republican governor said in a radio interview Thursday that he was forced to cast a provisional ballot because election officials said he had been taken off the voter rolls.

“They said I had passed away,” Scott said on Tallahassee-based radio station WFLA. “I said, `Here’s my driver’s license. I’m here, I’m really alive.’ So they allowed me to vote provisionally.”

Collier County election officials confirmed that Scott was required to cast a provisional ballot in two elections in 2006. Scott was not in politics at the time.

The ballot was counted both times.

Tim Durham, the chief deputy supervisor of elections, could not explain why Scott was forced to cast the provisional ballots. But he said it appears that another Florida resident with the same first and last name and the same date of birth had died in January 2006. The two men, however, had different middle names.

Provisional ballots are given to those who show up at the polls but are not listed as a registered voter. Voters are then given two days to prove that they are eligible.

Scott brought up the story of using a provisional ballot as part of his effort to defend an effort to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the rolls.

Scott’s push has triggered a partisan outcry and lawsuits. The U.S. Justice Department earlier this week sued Florida over the purge, saying it is happening within 90 days of a federal election.

Last year, Florida compared driver’s license records with voter registration records and turned up as many as 182,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens. But state officials did not release that list and instead sought access to a federal immigration database to verify the matches.

That request so far has been turned down by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Florida on Monday sued the agency to get access to the database.

Nelson takes to Senate floor to rip Scott

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, facing his own re-election fight this fall, took to the Senate floor this afternoon to rip Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott over his push to remove noncitizens from voter rolls — a move that has sparked the state and federal governments to trade lawsuits.

Nelson echoed the Democratic side in the fight, saying that Florida’s attempt to use flawed data would result in eligible voters being purged from the rolls.

In remarks he plans to deliver, Nelson recalls how his family has been in Florida 183 years and that he can’t believe his home state would make it harder for lawful citizens to vote.

“The governor and his administration should ensure the credibility of our voter rolls.  It should have a program to suppress fraud. But above all else, the state must ensure that every lawful citizen who has the right to vote can do so without impediment,” according to a draft of Nelson’s remarks.

For his part, Scott has made the round of network TV morning news shows defending the state’s effort. His office also said Tuesday that its own investigation has yielded 100 noncitizens on a list of 2,600 voters cited as potentially ineligible by the Florida Department of State, up from 86 people discovered last week.

Florida Republican Party Chairman Lenny Curry also swung back at Nelson, following his floor speech. Curry said the number of noncitizens found on Florida’s rolls is proof of a problem.

“So the question for Nelson and all opponents of verification efforts isn’t ‘is there evidence of fraud or illegal voting?’ because it is a matter of fact,” Curry said. “The question is, ‘how many illegal voters and votes are they willing to ignore?’”

Dueling lawsuits in voter purge: DOJ to sue Gov. Rick Scott admin

Monday, June 11th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Department of Justice will sue Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge, the federal agency told Scott’s administration the same day the governor filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to “immediately cease this unlawful conduct,” blaming Scott’s administration for the problematic purge.

“Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court.”

Perez’s 0611 DOJTODETZNERfive-page letter came in response to a missive from Detzner last week accusing President Obama’s administration of conspiring to keep Florida from cleansing its voter rolls. Perez flatly denied it.

“In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE Program is simply wrong,” he wrote.

The SAVE database won’t work by simply matching the names and dates of birth of potential non-citizens. That’s what the Florida Department of State did with driver license and voter registration records to create a list of more than 180,000 voter flagged as potentially inelgible to cast their ballots. Many of those on the error-riddled list turned out to be naturalized citizens, and others were born in the U.S.

Scott used the purge to pump up tea party supporters at a rally in Tallahassee yesterday.

Scott has repeatedly blamed the problematic list on DHS, which failed to give Florida permission to access the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” program that has more complete immigration data.

But Perez blamed Scott’s administration for the scrub flub.

“By your own admission, Florida has been on notice for at least eight months that the SAVE Program can verify naturalized and derived United States citizens only if Florida provided the appropriate numeric identifiers, and where necessary, the underlying documentation. But Florida has failed to either to provide the necessary information to DHS, or to confirm that the necessary information would be available for verification purposes under the SAVE Program,” Perez wrote. “As a result, the significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation.”

Scott pumps up tea partiers, digs in over voter purge

Sunday, June 10th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott pumped up a conservative crowd at a Tea Party Express event in the Capitol city Sunday afternoon, urging the activists to help him gain support for a controversial non-citizen voter purge now in federal court.

Wearing khakis, a blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up and his signature custom-made cowboy boots, Scott defended the purge and enlisted their aid getting President Obama’s administration to cooperate by granting access to a federal immigration database.

“Okay so the latest is who should get to vote in our state and in our country. People that are citizens of our country. It’s very simple, right? Who comes up with the idea that you get to vote if you’re not a citizen?” Scott asked near the end of a 15-minute speech at the Tallahassee Antique Car Museum.

Scott explained that his administration unsuccessfully tried to get Homeland Security to give Florida access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database the states are supposed to be allowed to use to check voter IDs, among other things.

“That database is obligated to be given to us and it says it’s for voter registration. Go look at it. It’s the SAVE database from Homeland Security. It’s our right to get that data. For whatever reason, they decided not to give it to us. Can you imagine why?” Scott said. “So we have to, you have to, demand that Homeland Security does their job. I’m going to continue to stand up for your right. I do not want one person’s vote in this state diluted by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote.”

Scott’s office on Friday released a document showing that 86 individuals were removed from the voter rolls since Secretary of State Ken Detzner sent a list of about 2,600 potential non-citizen voters to elections supervisors in April. The error-riddled list turned out to include the names of Floridians who were naturalized citizens and one decorated World War II veteran. The state department contends that 46 of those people – about one-third of one percent – voted in previous elections. But a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times review found that only six of those had cast ballots.

The purge has created a national firestorm and partisan split.

Scott remained steadfastly committed to the purge on Sunday.

“Here’s what we know. We know that people are on our voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. We know that people have voted that don’t have a right to vote. We know that. How many races should be decided by somebody that doesn’t have the right to vote. Not one. Not one. Not one person should have the right to vote that doesn’t have the right to vote. That is wrong and it is a crime,” he said.

U.S Attorney General Eric Holder’s office last month told Scott to stop the scrub, saying it appeared to violate two federal laws. The federal “motor voter” law prohibits states from doing purges 90 days before an election. That deadline passed May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. And Friday the ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration over the purge, asking a federal court to put a stop to it until the Justice Department weighs in.

But a defiant Scott instructed the tea partiers to contact “everybody that’s involved” and demand that the state get access to SAVE, adding that he’s not backing down. The ACLU and others sued Scott’s administration on Friday, asking a federal court to stop the purge until the Justice Department weighs in.

“It’s not going to be easy. I need your support. You need to go out there and let everybody know that this is wrong.”

Scott said later he is considering suing the Obama administration over its refusal to grant permission to use the database.

“I’ll decide over the next few days what we’re going to do. But I’m going to defend our right to vote. I care about every individual’s right to vote. I don’t want it diluted by somebody else’s vote,” he told reporters after the event.

During his speech, Scott repeatedly urged the tea partiers to put their grassroots activism to use over the purge.

“Your job is to make sure those individuals do their job. Call them. Do what you’ve done to me. I think last week I got 5,000 e-mails. E-mail me. Call. And call everybody else…I’m going to do my job. I’m going to make sure that happens,” he said.

In her introduction of Scott, Tea Party Express co-founder Amy Kremer also riled up the anti-Obama administration crowd over the purge, calling it part of an effort by Democrats to “steal” elections.

“If the Democrats cannot win it fair and square, they will steal it. They have done it before. We cannot let them take this away from us,” she said.

The battle over the voter vetting is on hold in Florida as the state’s 67 elections supervisors have said they will not continue the process until the issue is straightened out between Scott and the Obama administration or the courts. The elections supervisors are the only ones who have the ability to actually remove voters from the rolls.

Scott said he’s confident the supervisors will do the right thing.

“They got elected. They know their job. They have an obligation. My job is to enforce the law that I’m responsible for. They have an obligation to enforce their laws. They’re not supposed to allow anybody to vote that doesn’t have a right to vote,” he said Sunday. “They’re going to do the right thing. They’re doing the right thing. Not one person has been kicked off a voter roll that has a right to vote. But we do know people have voted. We do know people are on the voter rolls that don’t have a right to vote.”

Scott, whose popularity among Florida voters remains lackluster, told reporters he appeared at the event to help get voters primed for the November elections.

“Just to energize the vote. Get people out. Let people know this election’s important. Every election’s important. You always hear that this election’s the most important one. But elections are important. They have an impact. If you want to change the direction of the state, the country, you’ve got to show up,” he said.

Civil rights groups file federal lawsuit over Florida voter purge

Friday, June 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

A coalition of civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott’s administration over a controversial non-citizen voter purge the Justice Department considers a violation of two federal elections laws.

The ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges asked a three-judge panel in Tampa to stop Secretary of State Ken Detzner from continuing the scrub until the Justice Department decides whether it is permissible.

The purge, the brainchild of Scott, has sparked a national outcry and partisan divide over voting in the presidential battleground of Florida. And it’s created a tug-of-war between President Obama’s and Scott’s administrations.

Detzner in April sent elections supervisors lists of more than 2,600 potentially ineligible voters flagged by matching driver license records with the state’s voter registration database. More than half of those on the list – gleaned from a master list of more than 182,000 voters – had Hispanic-sounding surnames. Elections supervisors found that many of those targeted for removal were naturalized citizens, and backed away from the scrub last week.

Federal law requires “preclearance” of voting or elections changes in jurisdictions with a history of discrimination. Five counties in Florida – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – require such preclearance.

But Detzner asked for the federal go-ahead for those counties before moving ahead with the purge, the lawsuit, filed on behalf of two Hillsborough County naturalized citizens and Mi Familia Vota, argues.

Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday told a Congressional committee that the purge appears to violate federal law prohibiting states from doing voter registration database maintenance 90 days before an election. That deadline passed on May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary. The Justice Department asked Detzner to stop the scrub, but Detzner this week told Holder’s office he believes President Obama’s administration is breaking the law by not giving the state access to a Department of Homeland Security database with current immigration information.

Murat Limage, a Haitian-American U.S. Citizen, and Pamela Gomez, who is a Dominican-American Hispanic U.S. Citizen, brought the suit along with Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to working with the Latino/Hispanic community to increase civic participation. Both Gomez and Limage are registered to vote in Hillsborough County.

Haitian-born Murat Limage, one of the plaintiffs in the case, registered to vote after becoming a naturalized citizen two years ago. Limage was one of the more than 2,000 voters who received written notice from local elections officials notifying him that he “may not be a U.S. citizen,” the lawsuit reads.

According to the lawsuit, Limage provided his U.S. passport and other citizenship documents to the Hillsborough County elections office but has not yet received confirmation that he will be allowed to vote.

“When I received the letter saying that they had information that I may not be a citizen, I was concerned that someone was taking away my citizenship,” Limage said in a press release announcing the lawsuit today. “I’m an American which means I can vote and that’s all I want to do.”

Florida officials try different tack to get access to federal database for voter purge

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

State officials are trying another route to get access to the Department of Homeland Security database they believe will clear up controversy over a troubled non-citizen voter purge.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Executive Director Julie Jones today asked Department of Homeland Security officials to expand the agreement her agency has with them regarding the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or “SAVE,” database.

DHSMV already has permission to use the database to check the citizenship status of Floridians applying for driver licenses or government identification cards.

Last month, state highway officials and Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that DHSMV would be using the SAVE database to do a more complete vetting of 182,000 potential non-citizens who applied for driver licenses or state IDs and are also registered to vote.

But shortly after that, lawyers at DHSMV decided an agreement they had with Homeland Security prevented that.

So Jones today asked for a change in the memorandum of agreement with the feds so she could keep her records more current. Jones made no mention of the controversial non-citizen purge process in her letter to John Roessler, chief of the SAVE program.

“Most Florida driver licenses and identification cards issued to lawful, permanent residents are valid for eight years with the only exception being residents aged eighty or older,” Jones wrote. “This department is interested in keeping our records as up-to-date as possible between regular renewal cycles. Therefore, we are interested in utilizing SAVE in order to update our records between renewal cycles and we believe a modification of the MOA is required.”

DHSMV and state elections officials have flagged more than 182,000 potential non-citizens who are also registered to vote by matching driver license records with the Florida Voter Registration System.

The non-citizen purge has created a national uproar, pitted Gov. Rick Scott’s administration against the Justice Department, set off a stand-off of sorts between state and local elections officials and exploded into a partisan finger-pointing match.

And today’s letter is the latest twist in Scott’s SAVE skirmish with Homeland Security.Yesterday, the governor’s administration accused DHS officials of breaking the law by ignoring requests to use the database for nine months. Detzner and Scott have repeatedly blamed the problematic purge process on President Obama’s administration. They contend that being able to vet the names of potential non-citizens through SAVE would give elections officials – who refuse to participate in the scrub until the issue is sorted out – more confidence in the purge list, which flagged a decorated World War II veteran and citizens who were naturalized after they applied for their driver license.

AG Holder insists Scott administration breaking the law with voter purge

Thursday, June 7th, 2012 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch used a Congressional hearing today as a platform for Attorney General Eric Holder to defend his intervention in a controversial non-citizen voter purge launched by Gov. Rick Scott last year.

Holder’s remarks come in the midst of a back-and-forth between the Justice Department and Scott’s administration over who is breaking the law.

Deutch, D-Boca Raton, asked Holder to respond to U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney‘s attack yesterday in which Rooney, R-Tequesta, accused Holder of playing partisan politics by trying to stop a controversial non-citizen voter purge in Florida.

A fired-up Deutch blasted Scott for the problematic purge that flagged more than 182,000 potentially ineligible voters by matching driver’s license and voter registration records. A preliminary list of 2,600 voters given by Secretary of State Ken Detzner to elections supervisors found that many of those targeted had were naturalized citizens and others who had been born in the U.S. About 40,000 legitimately-registered voters could lose their abilities to case ballots in November, Deutch said, if the purge were to continue.

Republicans’ assertions that the purge is needed to combat voter fraud “preposterous and offensive” because only 16 cases of voter fraud were found out of more than 8 million votes cast in the last presidential election in Florida, Deutch said.

“And it’s condescending because voter fraud would be a totally ineffective way to rig an election. It’s rare because it’s a felony that risks prison time and huge fines and it’s a totally illogical way to sway elections. You know what is an effective way to sway elections? Scrubbing thousands of legitimate voters off the rolls. Eradicating voter registration drives. Reducing early voting and disenfranchising millions of seniors and impoverished Americans who lack government ID’s. That’s the tactic that Gov. Scott and his ilk are using not just in Florida but around the country,” said Deutch, who weeks ago had asked Holder to look into the purge.

“But maybe I’m wrong. Is my Republican colleague right? Have I missed some grand conspiracy here?” he asked, setting the stage for Holder to respond to Rooney and Scott, who yesterday accused President Obama’s administration of breaking the law by denying access to a Homeland Security database with more complete citizenship records.

“That is not what motivated our action or will continue to motivate the action that we may have to take,” Holder said. “But I will assure you that we will make sure that the federal law is enforced. And that voter purges happen in a way that is consistent with the law.”

Last week, Holder’s voting rights division asked Scott to stop the purge because it appeared to be a violation of a federal law that bars state voter registration purges 90 days before an election. That window passed on May 16 in Florida for the Aug. 14 primary. Yesterday, Detzner said he “respectfully disagrees” with the Justice Department and that their interpretation of the law would give Floridians the right to sue the federal government to ensure their votes are not diluted.

Holder denied that he is engaged in a “political ploy” and told Deutch he is simply enforcing the law.

“I share your view that we do not want to have people inappropriately voting. We do not want to have voter rolls who contain people who should not have the right to vote. At the same time, we should be engaged in a process that does not put off the rolls people who have served their country, veterans, people who want to exercise their fundamental American rights. The notion that this is somehow a political ploy is inconsistent. One only has to look at the law which is clear. Ninety days. It is very, very clear. Ninety days,” Holder said.

Elections supervisors have abandoned the non-citizen scrub until Scott and the feds – or a court – sort things out.

Gov. Scott administration tells Justice Department it’s wrong about voter purge, gives Monday deadline for response

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration responded to the Justice Department’s request to stop a controversial non-citizen voter purge with questions of its own and told federal officials they’re wrong that the scrub violates federal law.

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, given a deadline of today to respond to the Justice Department, also gave the Justice Department until Monday to answer four questions about what the state is supposed to do to ensure its voter rolls are clean.

“It is an unfortunate but now undeniable fact that Florida’s voter rolls include individuals who are not citizens of the United States,” Detzner wrote to in a four-page letter to T. Christian Herren, chief of the Justice Department’s Voting Rights Division. “The Florida Department of State has a solemn obligation to ensure the integrity of elections in this State. Permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process.”

Despite Detzner’s insistence that the purge is legitimate, the process will remain in limbo for now because the state’s elections supervisors will not continue the scrub until the issue is resolved by state and federal officials or a court, the Florida Association of Supervisors of Elections general counsel Ron Labasky said Wednesday evening.

Last week, Herren said that the purge process is a potential violation of federal law that prohibits large-scale voter list maintenance 90 days before an election. That deadline was May 16 for the Aug. 14 primary in Florida.

Detzner blamed the problematic purge on the federal government for failing to grant the state access to a Department of Homeland Security database that has more up-to-date information regarding citizenship than the driver license records used to create a flawed list of more than 2,600 potential non-citizens who are also registered voters.

“In sum, the practice DOJ now seems to be enforcing is as follows: The Department of Homeland Security may, for months, violate federal law and deny Florida and other states access to the SAVE database so that the federal Department of Justice may then assert that the resulting delays in a state’s election-integrity efforts violate the time periods established in another federal law. This hardly seems like an approach designed to protect the integrity of elections and ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted,” Detzner wrote.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney tells feds to butt out of Florida voter purge

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012 by Dara Kam

U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney told Attorney General Eric Holder to stop meddling in Gov. Rick Scott’s effort to clean up the voter rolls in Florida, accusing Holder of “blatant politicization” of the non-citizen voter purge.

The Justice Department last week told Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner the voter purge may violate two federal laws and gave Detzner until today to respond to its request to drop the scrub.

Scott has given no indication he’s going to back down, and Detzner insists that the law requires him to ensure the voter rolls are accurate.

Rooney, a Tequesta Republican, is the latest official to wade into the political fray over the purge, which has sparked a national partisan dust-up. Democrats blame the Scott administration of trying to keep minorities and Hispanics – who dominate the list of 2,600 flagged voters given to elections officials in April – from going to the polls in November. Republicans accuse critics of the purge, including Holder, of wanting to break the law by allowing ineligible voters to cast their ballots.

Rooney’s letter mirrors a legal analysis by a former Justice Department lawyer who says Holder is wrong.

“Your actions further demonstrate that the Department of Justice, under your leadership, is more concerned with protecting the reelection prospects of the President than with upholding justice and enforcing the rule of law,” Rooney wrote in a letter sent today.

The News Service of Florida reported that Scott earlier today defended the purge, which he initiated last year, and said he hopes to have a response to the Justice Department today and defended the purge.

“Not a single eligible voter as far, as I know, has been removed from the voter rolls,” Scott said in an interview with WNDB radio in Daytona Beach, where Scott was Wednesday. “Not one. And we’re working to keep it that way.”

Scott insisted the purge is necessary to maintain voters’ confidence in the elections process.

“Their vote should not be diluted by people who don’t have the right to vote,” Scott said. “We need to be reviewing our voter rolls and making sure only those individuals who have the right to vote … are voting.”

Meanwhile, the state’s elections supervisors have dropped the voter purge because the data they received was too flawed and they want to wait until the issue is sorted out by Scott and the feds or the courts. The 67 supervisors are the only ones who can actually remove voters from the rolls.

Moveon.org targets Gov. Rick Scott over non-citizen voter purge

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 by Dara Kam

Activists at Moveon.org have launched a campaign demanding that Gov. Rick Scott drop a controversial non-citizen voter purge, calling it “the worst attack on voting rights in the country.”

The e-mail to Moveon.org members asking them to contact Scott’s office comes a day before a deadline set by the Justice Department last week telling Scott’s administration that the scrub appears to violate at least two federal elections laws. The Department of Justice gave Secretary of State Ken Detzner until tomorrow to tell them whether he will comply. Detzner and Scott gave no indication that would halt the program, and elections supervisors last week said they would drop the effort until the feds and Scott – or a court – resolve the issue.

“We have just 24 hours to make sure Governor Rick Scott stops his all-out assault on Florida’s Latino voters. It’s the worst attack on voting rights in the country,” the e-mail from Moveon.org organizer Garlin Gilchrist II begins.

In April, Detzner sent Florida’s 67 elections supervisors a list of more than 2,600 “non-citizens” culled from a grand list of more than 183,000 flagged by matching the state voter registration database with driver’s license records. The supervisors found that the list was riddled with errors. U.S.-born voters – including at least one Brooklyn-born war hero – and naturalized citizens were among those flagged. Many of the names on the list are Hispanic.

“We have to stop Governor Scott today—he is embarrassing Florida and corrupting the electoral process. His reckless acts have local and national implications. So let’s ring his office’s phones off the hook until he stops his racially-targeted attack on voting rights,” Gilchrist’s message goes on. “Will you call Gov. Scott right now? Tell him, ‘Stop illegally purging Florida voters.’ Here’s where to call. Governor Rick Scott:
(850) 488-7146.”

UPDATE: Elections supervisors to quit processing voter purge list

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

Elections supervisors will stop using a flawed list of potential non-citizens to scrub the voter rolls, Martin County Supervisor of Elections Vicki Davis, president of the state’s elections supervisors association, said this morning.

The U.S. Department of Justice yesterday told Secretary of State Ken Detzner that the voter purge process, launched by Detzner in April, appears to violate at least two federal voting laws. DOJ gave Detzner until June 6 to respond.

The Justice Department letter and the problematic list make the scrub undoable, Davis said.

“That’s why we’re just stopping. There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue,” Davis, president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, said.

Ron Labasky, the association’s general counsel, is sending a memo to the state’s 67 elections supervisors this morning telling them to stop processing the list, Davis said.

“My advice under these circumstances, and based upon the previous issues that have been presented concerning the list, as well as the fact that the Department has indicated its intent to take further actions to review its list to determine its validity, I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues were raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court,” Labasky wrote to the supervisors today.

Detzner in April sent a list of more than 2,600 flagged voters identified as potential non-citizens by matching the state’s voter registration database with driver’s license records. But the error-riddled list included the names of U.S.-born citizens – like one Brooklyn-born war hero – and others who are naturalized citizens.

At their summer meeting last month, elections supervisors of both parties raised objections to the list to state Division of Elections officials, who then said the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles would scrub the list more carefully using a Department of Homeland Security database.

But yesterday, Labasky told the supervisors that Detzner’s office said DHSMV could not run the names through the federal database. Detzner, a Republican, also yesterday again asked Homeland Security officials for access to the database.

The non-citizen purge list – the brainchild of Republican Gov. Rick Scott – has created a national firestorm over elections in crucial swing-state Florida and has sparked a partisan battle over what to do next.

Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry this morning announced an online campaign to get people to contact the White House and ask for access to the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, database.

Democrats say the voter purge process is part of a GOP effort to keep voters away from the polls in November.

A federal judge yesterday blocked portions of a controversial elections law passed last year, saying a 48-hour requirement for third party groups to turn in voter registration forms was “harsh and impractical.”

Justice Department tells Scott administration to quit purging voters

Friday, June 1st, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Justice Department has asked Gov. Rick Scott’s administration to stop a controversial voter purge effort, saying it appears to violate federal law.

DOJ officials gave Secretary of State Ken Detzner, who launched the purge of potential non-citizens in April, until June 6 to tell them what the state’s plan is.

In April, Detzner sent Florida’s 67 elections supervisors a list of more than 2,600 “non-citizens” flagged by matching the state voter registration database with driver’s license records. The supervisors found that the list was riddled with errors. U.S.-born voters – including at least one war hero – and naturalized citizens were among those flagged. Many of the names on the list are Hispanic.

The purge set off a national firestorm over another in a long history of voting and elections scrapes in Florida. Civil rights groups and Democrats, including Boca Raton U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, have asked Scott’s administration to abandon the effort. And, citing faulty data, some local supervisors have dropped the scrub. This week, activists started an online petition asking DOJ to intervene. Throughout it all, Detzner has insisted he will continue with the purge and yesterday again asked the Department of Homeland Security for access to its database to ensure the data is more reliable.

In yesterday’s letter, T. Christian Herren, chief of the DOJ’s voting section, said the scrub appeared to violate at least two federal laws. Five counties in Florida require federal approval before any voting or election changes are made, but Detzner did not ask the DOJ or a federal court to sign off on the purge before he initiated it.

And federal voting laws prohibit any major voter scrub 90 days before an election. That deadline was May 16 for Florida’s Aug. 14 primary.

Detzner doesn’t appear to be backing down. His spokesman Chris Cate told The News Service of Florida late yesterday the agency is reviewing the letter but “we are firmly committed to doing the right thing and preventing ineligible voters from being able to cast a ballot.”

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