Florida’s Scott defends voter purge scheme


In case you missed Rachel’s segment on the issue last night, here’s the latest out of the Sunshine State. The Justice Department demanded last week that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) halt its voter-purge efforts, arguing that process has not been cleared under the Voting Rights Act and violated the National Voter Registration Act. Yesterday, the Scott administration responded.

Gov. Rick Scott’s election’s chief on Wednesday defiantly refused a federal demand to stop purging non-citizens from Florida’s voter rolls, intensifying an election-year confrontation with President Barack Obama’s administration as each side accuses the other of breaking federal law.

In a sharply worded letter, Scott’s administration claimed the Department of Justice doesn’t understand two federal voting laws at the heart of the dispute and was protecting potentially illegal voters more than legal ones.

Florida also accused another federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security, of violating the law by denying Florida access to a federal citizenship database.

msnbc published the Scott administration’s response here.

So, where do things stand as of this morning? The Justice Department believes the Republican voter purge in Florida is violating the law. Rick Scott and his team don’t care what the Justice Department believes, effectively dared federal officials to take the matter to court, and said the Obama administration is violating the law by refusing to help with the voter purge.

Remember, at issue here is the Florida GOP’s effort to purge non-citizens from the voting rolls – an effort that has relied on bad data and had the effect of targeting thousands of eligible citizens. Scott says the voter-suppression scheme, launched just five months before the election, is necessary to prevent voter fraud, but not only has he cast far too wide a net, voter fraud is practically a myth in the state.

There is, however, a catch. They’re called Florida’s county election supervisors.

As Rachel explained last night:

“Here is a wild card, though: Rick Scott’s administration can’t actually directly kick voters off the rolls. They’re not in charge of the rolls. All they can do is send purge lists to the counties, to county election supervisors, and tell the people who work at the county level that they’re supposed to kick people off the rolls.

“It is up to the county, to the county officials, to actually do the purging, because they’re responsible for elections in their counties. And lately the county officials in Florida are not much in a mood for what the state is telling them to do. On Friday, local elections officials in Florida announced that they would be discontinuing the state directed voter purge, because they found the state’s data to be flawed. Oh, and also, there was that whole thing where the Justice Department said what the state’s doing is illegal.

“The president of the state’s association of supervisors of elections told the Palm Bach Post on Friday that the Justice Department’s letter and mistakes that the county elections officials had found in the state’s purge list, frankly, made the purge undoable: ‘There are just too many variables with this entire process at this time for supervisors to continue.’

“Rick Scott can thumb his nose at the Justice Department, but he cannot force local elections officials in Florida to carry out his voter purge.”

Finally, it’s also worth noting that Rick Scott’s voter-suppression efforts included harsh new restrictions on voter-registration drives. Last week, a federal judge struck down those restrictions, and as a result, the League of Women Voters has renewed its election-year efforts.

Rick Scott and Florida

Florida's Scott defends voter purge scheme