Florida Voting Purge a Thorny Legal Issue Ahead of Primary

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Several civil rights groups sent a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Thursday outlining their objections to the proposed removal of names on a list of registered voters. WFSU reports that up to 180,000 potentially ineligible voters will be scrutinized as they are cross-referenced in other state databases and a federal one. The groups threatened legal action if the process continues.

* Victor Dimaio believes the targets of the purge are minority groups. "The majority of the people being kicked off the ballots are primarily Hispanic and minorities and African Americans," Dimaio said, according to WFSU.

* The letter was signed by representatives of six groups. Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, League of United Latin American Citizens, Latino Justice and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition all objected to Detzner's actions this close to the Aug. 14 primary election.

* The coalition of groups makes the claim that citizenship is not required to obtain a Florida driver's license. The database of the Secretary of State is being cross-referenced with Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Jury excusal forms are also being used to eliminate potential illegal voters.

* The groups say the move to purge voters is against the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The act "expressly prohibits" purges within 90 days of a federal election. Since Congressional seats are up for grabs Aug. 14 in the primary election, the letter contends Detzner's actions are illegal. The act also states a list maintenance program must be "nondiscriminatory."

* The letter states Detzner's office must correct any actions taken within 20 days of receipt of the notice.

* The Secretary of State announced the new initiative May 9. The initial search pinpointed 1,200 voters to be taken off the rolls.

* The Miami Herald noted May 22 there were nearly 7,000 known felons purged from voter rolls. From January through April, 6,934 names were removed. There were three times as many registered Democrats over Republicans. Blacks were responsible for 43 percent of the drops even though that ethnic group makes up only 16 percent of Florida's population.

* Post On Politics states the voter purge was requested by Gov. Rick Scott once he took office in 2010. Detzner's office told the media outlet it is "obligated by law" to remove illegal voters from the database.

* Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., plans to make a request to Scott to stop the removals. Deutch claimed the process lacked "accountability" and is "irresponsible." Deutch also pointed out the state's "troubled history" with voter purges in 2000 and 2004.

William Browning is a research librarian specializing in U.S. politics. Born in St. Louis, Browning is active in local politics and served as a campaign volunteer for President Barack Obama and Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill.

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