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article imageFlorida to Eric Holder: States have right to purge illegal voters

By Larry Clifton     Jun 7, 2012 in Politics
Tallahassee - On the heels of Gov. Scott Walker’s victory over big unions in Wisconsin, Florida’s governor is tackling another bastion for liberal politicos.
Gov. Rick Scott’s elections chief on Wednesday refused a federal demand from Attorney General Eric Holder’s office to stop purging noncitizens from Florida's voter rolls, intensifying an election-year confrontation with President Barack Obama's administration, according to a Tampa Bay Times report.
Scott believes noncitizens and others who are legally ineligible to vote should be purged from registered voter rolls to prevent electoral corruption. President Obama’s attorney general, on the other hand, thinks noncitizens should be left on voter rolls in the state of Florida since he says Florida has no right to check the status of its voter registration. Each side accuses the other of breaking federal law.
In a letter to Holder’s office, Scott's administration claimed the Department of Justice doesn't understand two federal voting laws at the heart of the dispute and was protecting potentially illegal voters instead of legal ones.
For example, for each illegal vote, the voting rights of a citizen is taken away, or discounted.
Florida also accused another federal agency, the Department of Homeland Security, of violating the law by denying Florida access to a federal citizenship database. Under Obama’s Homeland Security appointee, Janet Napolitano, the state of Florida was refused access to the federal citizenship database to inspect integrity of Florida’s voter registration.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi refused to rule out suing Homeland Security to gain access to its database for voter-registration checking.
"This hardly seems like an approach earnestly designed to protect the integrity of elections and to ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted," said the letter, written by Scott's secretary of state, Ken Detzner.
Detzner also submitted a list of four questions that he wants the Justice Department to answer.
In tone and substance, the letter all but dares the Justice Department to sue Florida for allegedly violating the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), nicknamed "motor voter."
Last week, after the Justice Department letter came out, Democrat county election supervisors suspended the purge. Several said a list of nearly 2,700 potential noncitizen voters was unreliable and included hundreds of actual citizens who are lawful voters, however offered no proof of their allegations.
The state's latest action promises to escalate the debate over hunting down suspected illegal voters in the nation's largest battleground state. Predictably, liberal groups requested the Justice Department interfere in Florida’s effort to insure the integrity of its electoral system and condemned the state while conservatives praised it, slamming the Justice Department for its interference.
Meanwhile, proponents for blocking illegal votes wonder aloud why Obama’s hand-picked attorney general would be against sharing federal information for a legitimate purpose, federal information that was gathered at the expense of taxpayers for just such a purpose.
From preventing voter corruption to the Democrat’s healthcare reform to illegal immigration, Scott and Bondi, both Republicans, have boldly and consistently challenged the Obama administration.
The Justice Department's top voting rights lawyer, T. Christian Herren, said last week that Florida's voter-purge effort violated "motor voter" because it fell within 90 days of a federal election. However the national elections in November are over 150 days away.
Detzner argues Herren misread the law, which only applies to purges of once-eligible citizens who become ineligible through criminal conviction, death or mental incompetence. The 90-day purge-ban, which has barely been litigated, largely applies to efforts to remove voters who have moved — not voters who were ineligible in the first place, Detzner said.
If the state followed the federal demand, Detzner wrote, then it would help unlawful voters cast ballots. And that could cancel out the ballots cast by lawful voters and would therefore violate the U.S. Constitution, Detzner said.
"If the effect of the NVRA is to force a state to allow never-eligible non-citizens the opportunity to vote," he wrote, "then the statute might violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution, which guarantees that the right to vote cannot be denied by a dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote."
And if that happens, Detzner said, citizen groups would sue.
Florida is a hotly contested battleground state where Al Gore lost to George W. Bush by a handful of votes after a flurry of odd recounts that attempted to interpret the intentions of “under voters.”
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