The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit earlier this month to halt the purge, saying it was going on too close to a federal election. U.S. officials also said the list used by Florida had “critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse voters.”
Hinkle in ruling from the bench said federal laws are designed to block states from removing eligible voters close to an election. He said they are not designed to block voters who should have never been allowed to cast ballots in the first place.
If this AP report is accurate, it then Judge Hinkle is simply wrong. Here is the text of the federal law at issue in this case:
A State shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.
Although the law does include exceptions for voters who ask to be removed, felons, the mentally incapacitated and dead voters, none of those exceptions apply to this case. The law says that no state may engage in a Florida-style voter purge seeking to remove ineligible voters within 90 days of an election. Period.
Judge Hinkle’s apparent decision is not simply wrong as a matter of statutory text, it also defies common sense. No state should ever purge eligible voters from its voter rolls for reasons that should be obvious. The purpose of the federal law preventing purges of ineligible voters within 90 days of an election is to avoid a situation where a state wrongly flags an eligible voter as someone who cannot lawfully vote without providing that voter enough time to demonstrate that the state made a mistake. Hinkle’s apparently misreads this law to suggest that Florida is perfectly free to kick legal voters off its voter rolls so long as it does so more than three months before an election.