Rick Scott’s 2012 voter purge, which was so blatantly illegal and the lists so inaccurate that even Republican county clerks in the state refused to go along with it, has been declared illegal (PDF) by a federal appeals court. The DOJ said at the time it was illegal and they’ve now been vindicated. The National Voter Registration Act could not be more clear:
A State shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.
The court applied this “plain meaning” of the text after Scott tried to purge the voter rolls 55 days before the 2012 election:
For programs that systematically remove voters, however, Congress decided to be more cautious. At most times during the election cycle, the benefits of systematic programs outweigh the costs because eligible voters who are incorrectly removed have enough time to rectify any errors. In the final days before an election, however, the calculus changes. Eligible voters removed days or weeks before Election Day will likely not be able to correct the State’s errors in time to vote. This is why the 90 Day Provision strikes a careful balance: It permits systematic removal programs at any time except for the 90 days before an election because that is when the risk of disfranchising eligible voters is the greatest.
Last week, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that the state would not be trying to purge the voter rolls in 2014 as planned. Purging the voter rolls is necessary and required, but it’s absolutely vital that it be done in a legal and timely manner. Great care must be taken to make sure that the lists are accurate and that you aren’t purging eligible voters from the list. Former Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land, who is now running for the Senate, was twice smacked down by federal courts for illegal voter purges when she tried to engage in what is called “voter caging,” which I’ve discussed before.