Florida’s secretary of state has asked a federal judge to force President Barack Obama’s administration to comply with federal voting laws.
“We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer,” Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in a Monday statement announcing a new lawsuit. “We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”
The lawsuit follows Detzner’s effort to make the federal government comply with a law that requires it to help states verify the eligibility of people to vote in state elections. Florida officials are concerned that up to 180,000 non-citizen residents are inappropriately registered to vote.
In kind, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division threatened to sue the state of Florida if it does not halt the voter identification program, saying the state has not cleared it with federal authorities as required under the Voting Rights Act.
“It appears that Florida has initiated a new program for systematic voter removal, which may ultimately target more than 180,000 registered voters,” wrote Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights, in a Monday letter to Florida officials.
Under Florida’s rules, the state can strike people off the rolls if they don’t confirm their citizenship after a multi-stage, public process. The process would be greatly improved and accelerated if the federal Department of Homeland Security would confirm the citizenship of people on the state’s voter rolls, Chris Cate, communications director for the Florida Department of State, told The Daily Caller in May.
“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,” he added.
“After nearly a year of requests for access to the [Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements] SAVE database, the federal government has shown no signs of meeting their legal requirement to provide access,” Detzner’s statement said.
On the other side, the Justice Department letter seemed to take a condescending tone.
“As one would expect with a new program that has not been tested against real-world information, your program has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters,” Perez wrote.
Democratic officials have generally opposed voter-identification reforms, and have complained bitterly when legislatures and courts have adopted new laws that require voters to identify themselves when voting or registering.
GOP officials argue that many jurisdictions’ rolls contain significant numbers of ineligible voters who vote for Democratic candidates.
In 2004, President George W. Bush won the state — and the presidency — after a very contentious vote count that prompted much criticism of Florida’s election process.
But Bush’s extremely narrow lead of a few hundred votes was validated by a subsequent count conducted by establishment media outlets, including The New York Times. Roughly six million ballots were cast in the state.
The state’s June 11 lawsuit asked a judge to issue “an order … holding unlawful defendants’ failure to provide plaintiff access to the SAVE Program in response to its inquiry to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of individuals within its jurisdiction for a purpose authorized by law … and compelling defendants to provide plaintiff immediate access to the SAVE Program.”