Florida Gov. Rick Scott defends voter purge as DOJ threatens court challenge

ByABC News
June 12, 2012, 12:38 PM

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Florida Gov. Rick Scott hit the cable circuit on Tuesday morning to defend his state's efforts to prevent illegal immigrants from voting, amid news that the Justice Department will challenge his plan in court.

"I have an obligation to enforce the laws of our land. You don't get to vote in Florida if you're a non-U.S. citizen," the Republican governor said on CNN's "Starting Point."

Scott, who also appeared on "Fox and Friends," hit back at accusations that his plan is politically motivated and an attempt to suppress legal votes. The Florida Department of State compares names on the state's voter rolls with data about citizenship status to identify non-citizens, and it removes them if they do not prove their legality. "This is not a partisan issue, this is Republican, Democrat, Independent, this is protecting the rights of U.S. citizens and not diluting their vote by non-U.S. citizens," said Scott.

The Justice Department announced plans Monday to take legal action against Florida for appearing to violate the Voting Rights Act and the National Voter Registration Act with its voter purge. The American Civil Liberties Union has also filed a lawsuit to stop Florida's voter purge.

"Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court," Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general, wrote in a letter Monday to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.

The Justice Department's action was a direct response to Detzner's announcement earlier Monday that Florida would sue the Department of Homeland Security to gain access to the federal citizenship database (SAVE) to help carry out their voter purge. Scott said Monday that Florida has found nearly 100 non-citizens on state voter rolls.

As Yahoo News has reported, partisan battles over voter ID laws are being waged across the country this election year.

Voting rights advocates argue that the recent uptick in voter ID laws is due not to an increase in voter fraud, but to political agendas. The Brennan Center for Justice last October estimated that  over 5 million voters could be disenfranchised in 2012 due to stricter voting rights legislation, prior to the passage of voter ID laws in several additional states. Cases of identified fraud overall have been much lower than potential cases of voter disenfranchisement.