The DOJ recently sent a letter to the state of Florida telling them that their purges of suspected non-citizens from the voter rolls are likely in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act, but the state is defying that letter. This sets up an inevitable court fight.
Florida election officials responded late Wednesday to a Department of Justice warning to quit purging suspected non-citizens from state voter rolls with an unapologetic explanation and no agreement to stop.
The letter Florida sent to the Justice Department met a deadline set by the federal government late last month, but will likely trigger an extended legal battle between the state and federal governments and advocacy organizations. Florida’s response cited a medley of laws governing voting and used language strikingly similar to that of conservative advocacy groups claiming widespread voter fraud threatens the integrity of national elections.
If the U.S. blocks the purge, the federal government may be in violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, Florida told the Justice Department. Non-citizen votes would dilute the votes of citizens, the letter claimed. “Presumably eligible voters in Florida have the right to bring a lawsuit in federal court to test whether their votes are being unconstitutionally denied by the federal government,” if the purge isn’t allowed, Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote in the letter.
That’s pretty much just empty bluster. Those who have had their voting rights threatened will be the ones who have a suit against the state, as will the federal government under long-established law. Out of the original list of 3,000 people who received letters in the first phase of the purge, hundreds of them went to people who are U.S. citizens and eligible to vote. If your list is that inaccurate, you need to find a better way.
This response from voting rights advocates strikes me as a bit naive:
Groups defending voting rights of poor and minority voters said Florida appears determined to suppress minority voters.
”Unfortunately, the governor has not learned the lessons from the 2000 election, when thousands of eligible voters were purged from the rolls as a result of bad data matching and denied their right to vote,” said Robert Brandon, president of the Fair Election Legal Network, in a statement.
On the contrary, the governor has absolutely learned the lesson of the 2000 election. That lesson is that these voter purges do exactly what they are intended to do, which is to prevent enough people from voting to potentially swing an election.