Florida GOP voter purge leads to litigation

Updated
 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) recently launched an aggressive voter purge, ostensibly to remove non-citizens from the state’s voter rolls. Scott’s administration, however, used faulty data, targeted eligible voters, and ended up executing a voter-suppression scheme five months before an election.

Two weeks ago, the Justice Department told the Scott administration it’s breaking the law and demanded it stop the purge. The far-right governor not only refused, it demanded that the Obama administration help Scott’s scheme. The Obama administration said that’s not going to happen.

Yesterday, as we reported on last night’s show, the matter went to the courts, with both sides suing the other.

Scott’s chief elections official sued first, filing a federal lawsuit in Washington that accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of unlawfully refusing Florida access to a federal database that could help the state spot and remove noncitizens from the voter rolls. […]

Moments after the state filed suit, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez roared back in a sharply worded five-page letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, which ordered the state two weeks ago to stop the purge because it could violate two federal voting laws.

The state’s program is too “faulty” and comes too close to election time to not endanger the voting rights of thousands of lawful U.S. citizens, Perez wrote. He said Florida has repeatedly ignored Homeland Security’s warning that the department’s database, known as SAVE, isn’t designed for the noncitizen hunt on which Florida embarked.

Perez explained in his letter to the Scott administration that its problems in executing the voter purge “are of your own creation.” The letter added, “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. Please immediately cease this unlawful conduct.”

The governor, meanwhile, announced his lawsuit on Fox News, where, ironically, he said, “This is not a partisan issue.”

And just to make this a little messier, the purge effort itself is largely on hold anyway, because nearly every county elections supervisor has said Scott’s scheme is illegal, and they won’t enforce it.

As Rachel explained last week, Scott can send purge lists to the counties, but it’s up to the county officials “to actually do the purging … and lately the county officials in Florida are not much in a mood for what the state is telling them to do.” As of Friday, the county election chiefs said they would not move forward with Scott’s purge plan because they lack confidence in the integrity of the governor’s list.

Taken together, it appears that Florida is once again home a systemic election year fiasco. Try to contain your surprise.

Rick Scott and Florida

Florida GOP voter purge leads to litigation

Updated