Photograph by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.
Florida officials and the Obama administration traded legal threats Monday in the latest development in the ongoing fight over the Sunshine State's controversial non-citizen voter purge effort.
The Miami Herald reports that Republican Gov. Rick Scott got off the first shot when his chief election official announced the state's intention to sue the Department of Homeland Security for access to a federal database that it says would help state officials better identify and remove non-citizens currently on their voter rolls.
Moments later, the Justice Department returned serve by announcing its intention to sue the state for violating federal voting laws, CNN reports. In a sharply worded letter, administration lawyers noted that states can remove non-legal voters from lists but said that Florida's ongoing purge program has "critical imperfections," including the use of outdated data that likely contains the names of those who have recently become citizens. The letter also suggested that Florida might be purging too late: The state is now in a 90-day "quiet period" leading up to an Aug. 14 primary.
As for Florida's request for access to the Homeland Secuirty database, the Justice Department contends that it is not designed to be used for activities like the state's voter purge. "The significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation," DOJ wrote.
So far, the state has identified 87 non-citizens on the voter rolls, 47 of whom may have cast ballots.
The most recent list of potential non-citizens on the voter list is 2,700 names long, about 500 of whom have been identified as citizens, according to the Herald. That list is much smaller than the initial 180,000 possible non-citizens first identified by the state.
The ACLU sued the state of Florida last week, saying that under the Voting Rights Act the state is required to get permission to change election law in some of its counties.