Florida to DOJ: 'We Respectfully Disagree'

By: Jim Turner | Posted: June 6, 2012 6:42 PM
Ken Detzner, Pam Bondi and Rick Scott

Secretary of State Ken Detzner, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Gov. Rick Scott

The state will not end efforts to keep ineligible voters from having a chance to cast a ballot, even though the U.S. Department of Justice deadline to stop the voter-list purge came and went Wednesday.

Instead, state officials want to know if the DOJ supports the possibly illegal attempt by the Obama administration-backed Department of Homeland Security to keep Florida for months from accessing a database to assist its efforts.

In a four-page response to the DOJ's letter of May 31, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote that he “respectfully disagrees” with the federal position. He said he questions whether the justice agency is “endorsing” Homeland Security’s reluctance to open the database, which resulted in the state now being beyond a deadline to conduct the review.

“This hardly seems like an approach earnestly designed to protect the integrity of elections and to ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted,” Detzner wrote.

Detzner also added a series of questions he wants the DOJ to answer, including if Homeland Security has a legal obligation to provide Florida access to the SAVE database and what steps the DOJ believes Florida should take to identify and remove noncitizens from its voter registration list.

Prior to the DOJ letter’s release, Gov. Rick Scott reiterated that no eligible voters have been removed from the lists of registered voters.

"Not a single eligible voter, as far as I know, has been removed from the voter rolls," Scott said during an interview on WNDB 1150 AM in Daytona Beach on Wednesday morning.

The state sent lists of potentially ineligible voters to the supervisors. Each supervisor was to try contacting the voter to verify citizenship. If no response was made by the individual voter within 30 days, the name could be removed by the supervisor.

A DOJ spokesperson was not immediately available for comment Wednesday.

The Brennan Center for Justice, which -- along with groups such as Project Vote, Fair Elections Legal Network, Advancement Project, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, LULAC Florida, and the Hillsborough Hispanic Coalition Inc.--  has opposed the review, expressed disappointment with Detzner’s decision to press forward.

“The state’s planned purge, so close to the election, opens the door to errors, confusion and the removal of eligible voters,” Brennan Center's Democracy Program Director Wendy Weiser stated in a release. “The Department of Justice was correct in raising a concern about this process. The Sunshine State cannot continue to operate its election process in darkness.”

“Fortunately, many local election administrators have indicated they will not carry out the state’s plan. The opportunity for errors when conducting massive voter purges makes it imperative that purge practices be transparent, accurate, and carried out well in advance of an election. Only then can mistakes be corrected in time for a voter to cast a ballot that will count,” added Democracy Senior Counsel Myrna Pérez. “Consistent and uniform implementation of best practices will go a long way in ensuring that eligible voters are not thrown off the rolls by a stroke of the keyboard.”

The response is titled “Florida’s Continuing Commitment to Protecting Citizens Voting Rights.”

Meanwhile, the state may also be considering a legal response.

State Attorney Pam Bondi, who was not involved in Detzner’s response, is following the action.

“We still hope that the Department of State will be able to obtain the Obama administration's cooperation without resorting to litigation, but we're monitoring the situation and believe Florida needs to keep all of its options open,” Bondi spokeswoman Jenn Meale responded in an email.

On May 31, Christian Herren, the DOJ’s chief civil rights lawyer, gave Detzner until Wednesday to halt the voter roll review that has drawn sharp opposition from Democrats and minority groups.

Herren claims the effort may violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act -- requiring federal preclearance before undertaking any changes in Monroe, Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties, which have past experience with minority-voting problems -- and that because of the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, time has run out for the review before the 2012 elections.

In his letter, Herren didn’t mention that the Department of Homeland Security has delayed or stonewalled, since at least last September, requests from Florida to obtain updated citizenship information.

Florida has been requesting the information to comply with the federal “Motor Voter” law, which requires states to remove ineligible voters from the list of registered voters.

Herren’s letter prompted the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections on Friday to advise supervisors to put the review on hold.

Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

Comments (8)

Robert Lloyd
7:37AM JUN 8TH 2012
I would be all for our Founders original voting intent... white male Christian land-owners over 21 yrs of age.

This would solve the corruption of liberalism (democrat or republican), immorality (sorry for being redundant), and foreign entanglements and policing the world. Were our Founding Fathers wrong? I don't think so.
5:03PM JUN 8TH 2012
And being a southerner, you'd want to get the slaves' votes, too, correct.

We now call your disorder clearcut racism, so welcome to the 21st century where women, blacks, Jews, Moslems and everyone else you hate have an equal say.

Reality hurts, doesn't it.
12:08PM JUN 7TH 2012
Don't most dead people and illegals vote Democratic? That may be your answer.
5:22PM JUN 7TH 2012
GREAT! Then I guess the Democrats will sweep the field in November!
Conservative Voice
6:28AM JUN 7TH 2012
Exactly how is the State operating it's election process in darkness?

First, the letter sent to SOE was open for all to see as the media has reported.
Second, letters are sent to those in question asking them prove their citizenship within 30 days.
Third, if no response the name is removed and the person still has the right to appeal the decision.
Fourth, if the letter is returned to the SOE then they must post a notice in the local paper and the person has an additional 30 days to come to the office.

So tell me where is the darkness? Why do people (liberals and liberal groups) want non citizens voting? With all the mess over the years in Florida you would think both political parties would want the system to be clean of all individuals who are not citizens and felons as well.
5:21PM JUN 7TH 2012
I have no problem removing illegal voters IN A TIMELY AND LEGAL MANNER. This effort is neither (violating 2 federal laws) and is eerily similar to the felon removal effort that purged 8,000 legal voters, mostly African-American, prior to the 2000 Presidential election based on a similar inaccurate list.

So I have my own question - - Why do people (conservatives and conservativel groups) want to keep legal citizens from voting? With all the mess over the years in Florida you would think both political parties would want the system to contain all the individuals who are legally registered voters.

We have more shark attacks (10-15) each year in Florida than fraudulent voters. This purge to date has potentially discovered a whopping total of 2 illegal voting voters. Two out of 11 million registered voters.

In Miami-Dade County alone, 492 legal voters were on this list who could have lost their voting status if they had happened to be gone for the summer on vacation, didn't respond, etc., etc. Which is greater, 492 or 2? How many legal voters, not responding, would be removed?

The rush to purge is all about voter suppression and nothing to do with legitimate voter fraud. And it appears focused on non-Cuban Hispanic voters.

Since both the Governor and new Secretary of State (remember the last one resigned rather than carry out this purge based upon this list) both proclaim that they truly believe this won't remove ANY legal voters, they should both be agreeable to committing to RESIGN THEIR OFFICES IF EVEN ONE LEGAL VOTER, much less hundreds, shows up in November and finds out they can't vote because they've been purged by this effort.

Make that promise in a legally binding manner, and perhaps I'll buy this purge, after placing that similar burden of proof onto the Governor and Secretary of State.

Will that happen, of course not! WHY!

Because this IS all about voter supression, as the Governor and Secretary of State clearly know this is a highly flawed effort!
5:15AM JUN 7TH 2012
Florida has an opportunity here to set the general government straight. The feds have become a nationalized government that treats the states as vassals to federal whims of authority. Florida has every right to conduct its management of these matters as it sees fit.
5:23PM JUN 7TH 2012
Yeah - I think that's exactly what the many supervisors of election, many of them Republican, meant when they said the list is flawed and we're not going forward with this purge at this time.

I think Florida lost the right to ignore the federal government in something called the Civil War, just in case you forgot.

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