Florida Gov. Rick Scott said Monday he is suing the federal government to gain access to a federal immigration database.
The lawsuit represents the latest skirmish in an intensifying dispute over Florida's attempt to pare non-citizens from the voter rolls. The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered Florida to suspend the process, saying it violates a provision of the U.S. Voting Rights Act requiring certain counties with histories of voter discrimination -- some of them in Florida -- to get federal clearance before changing their voting procedures. Scott, a Republican, has already defied that order.
Shortly after the state filed suit, the Justice Department said it had initiated steps to sue Florida for violating federal voting laws, Reuters reported.
Filed in a U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., Florida's lawsuit accused the federal government of preventing the state from being able to check the citizenship status of voters by denying it access to a U.S. Department of Homeland Security database listing information on U.S. citizens.
For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida's voter rolls, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a statement.
We can't let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer, he said.
State officials have defended the purge as an attempt to ensure the integrity of the vote, but county election supervisors in Florida have found that many of the allegedly ineligible voters identified by the state were in fact U.S. citizens. Citing those errors, most supervisors are refusing to continue.
Florida officials have said being able to cross-check their list against a federal compilation of immigration data would eliminate such inaccuracies, and Scott said he was planning to sue the Department of Homeland Security to gain access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, or SAVE, program.
We want to have fair, honest elections in our state, so we've been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information, Scott told Fox News' Neil Cavuto, saying he had directed the Florida Secretary of State's Office to file a lawsuit against the federal Department of Homeland Security.