Florida’s controversial initiative to screen for suspected non-citizens and purge them from the voter rolls is allowed to officially resume, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday.
A Hispanic civil rights group and two naturalized citizens sued last year to block the purge, arguing that it needed to be approved by the federal government because five Florida counties were covered under the Voting Rights Act. After the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out a key section of the law, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit had little choice but to dismiss the suit. Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) said he plans to resume the voter purge.
In 2012, the Department of Justice warned that Florida’s voter purge, which targeted roughly 180,000 people, was illegal, and all of the state’s county election supervisors refused to execute the purge. The lists of flagged individuals — many of whom had Latino-sounding names — also turned out to be largely inaccurate. These flagged individuals would receive notifications in the mail notifying them that they had 30 days to contest the purge.
The state had to partially settle with a civil rights group and restore suspected non-citizens to the rolls, but soon tried to re-start the purge just a month before the November presidential election with a drastically pared down list of 198 voters.
After all the legal battles and thousands of wasted taxpayer dollars, the state could not turn up virtually any non-citizens who were registered to vote.
Florida voters, particularly in minority-heavy urban areas, suffered some of the longest lines and most chaotic elections in the country last year. The mayhem was largely created by Republican lawmakers’ efforts to suppress votes. Besides trying to purge voters, Republicans cut the number of early voting days in half, changed ballot length restrictions so they could add frivolous constitutional amendments to 12-page ballots, and restricted voter registration. These voter suppression efforts discouraged at least 201,000 Floridians from voting, and black and Latino voters waited nearly twice as long as white voters. The backlash was so fierce that even Gov. Rick Scott (R), the primary defender of these voter suppression laws, agreed to sign an election reform law undoing most of the damage.
Prominent Florida Republicans admitted shortly after the election that the motive behind all these election law changes was to make it harder for Democrats to vote.