The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Florida to stop its drive to remove what it says are ineligible voters from their rolls.
The federal agency on Monday announced its intention to sue the state, the Associated Press reported.
In a letter to Florida’s secretary of state, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez of Justice’s Civil Rights Division said Gov. Rick Scott and state officials haven’t adequately justified why they should be allowed to continue the purge, ignored a critical deadline and haven’t provided solid evidence that the purge meets “any of the statutory exceptions” required under under long-standing federal law, Politico reported.
On the same day, Scott announced that Florida was suing the Department of Homeland Security, which he said improperly denied the state access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, a critical federal database which would have helped them identify non-citizens more quickly and enabled them to meet the 90-day deadline.
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 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.
The Department of Justice had earlier 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.
Florida came up with a list that shows that as many as 182,000 registered voters may not be U.S. citizens. Election supervisors have been asked to check a much smaller list.
The database relies on some outdated driver's license information, and a number of the people on the list of possible non-citizens have since proven their citizenship, according to the state's election department. Opponents of the purge argue that the efforts disproportionately targeted Latinos and Democrats.
State officials have been seeking access to a federal immigration database to verify the matches. But that request has been turned down by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security so Florida is suing to gain access.
Federal officials, however, contend the purge violates federal voting laws.