Federal Court: Florida's 2012 Voter Purge Illegal

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Common Dreams

Federal Court: Florida's 2012 Voter Purge Illegal

Court finds state's attempt violated National Voter Registration Act

"The Court’s decision is a victory not only for the thousands of voters who were wrongly targeted by Florida’s 2012 purge list; it’s a win for naturalized citizens and for democracy," said Katherine Culliton-González, Advancement Project Director of Voter Protection. (Photo: apalapala/cc/flickr)

"The Court’s decision is a victory not only for the thousands of voters who were wrongly targeted by Florida’s 2012 purge list; it’s a win for naturalized citizens and for democracy," said Katherine Culliton-González, Advancement Project Director of Voter Protection. (Photo: apalapala/cc/flickr)

Florida's controversial voter purge ahead of the 2012 election was illegal, a federal court ruled Tuesday.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges found that the action taken by the administration if Gov. Rick Scott in the key swing state was "an attempt to systematically remove names from the voter rolls" within 90 days of a federal election, which is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

The plaintiffs in the case are Karla Arcia and Melande Antoine, Miami citizens and eligible voters who were wrongly targeted by the voter purge attempt.

Touted as an effort to prevent voter fraud, the purge sought to remove non-citizens from voting rolls, but the flawed approach ended up wrongly flagging some people as non-citizens, leading critics to call it a discriminatory attempt at voter disenfranchisement.

An analysis by the Miami Herald in 2012 found that "Hispanic, Democratic and independent-minded voters are the most likely to be targeted."

Tuesday's ruling was heralded by voting rights advocates.

"The Court’s decision is a victory not only for the thousands of voters who were wrongly targeted by Florida’s 2012 purge list; it’s a win for naturalized citizens and for democracy," said Katherine Culliton-González, Advancement Project Director of Voter Protection. "With another election ahead of us this year, we remain vigilant to ensure that politicians do not again restrict the fundamental right to vote."

In related news, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced last week that the state would be suspending its voter purge program until after the 2014 election. In a memo sent by Detzner to the state's Supervisors of Elections, he cited the reason for the halt as being an ongoing redesign of the federal database on which the purge would depend. That database, the ACLU of Florida points out, is "not intended for checking voter eligibility."

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