ACLU Sues Florida Over Voter Purge Program

The ACLU has filed a lawsuit to stop the state of Florida from a plan to purge its voter rolls and require some to re-verify their citizenship or lose registered status.

The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a politically charged battle over the swing-state's voter registration practices ahead of the November elections.

The ACLU of Florida says the state's attempt to remove ineligible voters from the rolls violates the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which was designed to protect minority groups from voter discrimination. Their claims mirror those made by the U.S. Department of Justice, which earlier this month ordered Florida to cease its controversial program.

"The illegal program to purge eligible voters uses inaccurate information to remove eligible citizens from the voter rolls," said Howard Simon, Executive Director of ACLUFL, in a statement when the suit was filed Friday. "It seems that Governor Scott and his Secretary of State cannot speak without hiding what they mean in political spin. They mislead Floridians by calling their illegal list purge 'protecting citizen's voting rights.' This is precisely why Congress has re-enacted, and why we continue to need, the Voting Rights Act - to prevent state officials from interfering with the constitutional rights of minorities. We now look to the courts to stop the Scott administration from assaulting democracy by denying American citizens the right to vote."

The ACLUFL is joined by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL) and the law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP in the suit.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has rejected claims that the program violates federal law, standing behind the efforts supported by Gov. Rick Scott and state Republican lawmakers. In a letter sent last week, Detzner requested clarification on the 1993 National Voters Registration Act from the Justice Department by June 11.

Responding to a Justice Department letter, Detzner wrote,"The actions taken by Florida to identify and remove non-citizens from its voter rolls ensure that the right to vote of citizens is protected and is not diluted by the votes of ineligible persons."

Yet, according to the ACLUFL, the purge list is based on outdated and inaccurate information, which has resulted in legal voters being misidentified and asked by county election officials to come forward and verify their citizenship. The lawsuit claims 61 percent of the people identified on the voter purge list are Hispanics, when Hispanics make up only 14 percent of registered Florida voters.

The ACLUFL's lawsuit comes amidst growing animosity among several state legislatures and the federal government over voter identification laws that the Justice Department says violate federal law by discriminating against minority groups. Texas and South Carolina are among the states that have filed lawsuits challenging the Justice Department's rejection of their respective voter ID requirements.