A federal judge in Tallahassee on Wednesday rejected a request to force the state of Florida to halt it’s non-citizen voter purge program.
Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department had asked the court to block the purge based on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which says that all “systematic” purges must be completed 90 days prior to the election.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled that Florida could continue the program because the 90-day provision did not apply to non-citizens.
“Determining citizenship is not as easy as the state would have it,” Hinkle admitted. “Questioning someone’s citizenship isn’t as trivial as the state would have it.”
Florida has notified more than 2,600 registered voters that they must prove their citizenship or possibly be removed from the voting rolls.
Brennan Center for Justice counsel Diana Kasdan on Wednesday told reporters that at least 500 of those notified had already provided proof of citizenship.
“Also, this list has a disproportionate number of Hispanic voters and other minority groups are overrepresented on it,” she explained. “Florida is running a large-scale purge based on faulty information at the last minute, with less than two months to the primary that’s coming up in August.”
“Past examples in Florida and elsewhere show that this kind of systematic purge is inherently problematic and error prone. And particularly when it’s conducted at this late stage without time to make corrections.”
In a statement, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called Hinkle’s ruling a “common-sense decision.”
“Today’s ruling puts the burden on the federal government to provide Florida with access to the Department of Homeland Security’s citizenship database,” Scott said. “We know from just a small sample that an alarming number of non-citizens are on the voter rolls and many of them have illegally voted in past elections.”
Many Florida counties had already voluntarily halted the purge due to questions about its legality.
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