Florida Counties Voter Rolls

(CNN) -- The legal counsel for Florida's local elections officers has recommended all counties in the state stop removing names from their voter rolls after the U.S. Department of Justice questioned the legality of the action.

In a recommendation dated June 1, Ron Labasky, a lawyer for the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections, advised all counties to stop the removal of names from the voter rolls until the Justice Department's concerns are resolved.

"I recommend that Supervisors of Elections cease any further action until the issues were raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court," Labasky wrote.

The so-called "voter purge" would remove names from Florida's voter rolls months before the 2012 presidential election, when Florida will play a key role as a battleground state with a large chunk of electoral votes.

Florida's move to remove non-eligible voters from its voter lists began after the state's Republican Gov. Rick Scott pressed the state to identify non-U.S. citizens who had registered to vote illegally. Using information from the state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the state identified more than 100,000 names of non-eligible voters that could potentially be on the lists illegally.

Critics say the plan unfairly targets minorities, and paint it as an attempt to dissuade typically Democratic voters from going to the polls.

The Department of Justice wrote in a letter Thursday that Florida failed to properly notify the federal government of their decision, writing the unilateral move violated provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Five counties in Florida are covered by the Voting Rights Act, a landmark piece of legislation that gives the federal government open-ended oversight of states and localities with a history of voter discrimination. Any changes in voting laws and procedures in the covered states must be "pre-cleared" with Washington.

In its letter, the Justice Department also said the move appeared to violate a provision that prevents states from removing voters from rolls less than 90 days ahead of an election. Florida will hold a primary vote on August 14. Florida has until Wednesday, June 6, to respond to the federal government's inquiry.

On Monday, Evelyn Perez-Verdia, spokeswoman for the supervisor of elections in Broward County, and Carolina Lopez, spokeswoman for the supervisor of elections in Miami-Dade County, both said their jurisdictions would stop the removal of names.

Susan Bucher, the supervisor of elections for the third largest county, Palm Beach, said her office never began the process of removing voters from the rolls since she felt the database used was outdated.

Chris Cate, a spokesman for the Florida Division of Elections, said his office was preparing a response to the Justice Department's letter.

On Friday, Cate cast the decision to remove names from the list as essential to preventing non-citizens from casting ballots illegally.

"The Department of State has a duty under both state and federal laws to ensure that Florida's voter registration rolls are current and accurate. Therefore, identifying ineligible voters is something we are always doing," Cate wrote.

He added that the action was not meant to prevent minority voters from voting.

"The political party and race of the potential non-citizens is not a factor at all in our process," Cate wrote. "We are only concerned about identifying ineligible voters and making sure they can't cast a ballot."


631 SW Commerce Pl. Topeka, Kansas 66615 phone: 785-272-6397 fax: 785-272-1363 email: feedback@wibw.com
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 157295825