A federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday that the state's effort
in 2012 to identify voters who were improperly registered violated
the National Voter Registration Act because it was conducted less
than 90 days before the U.S. presidential election.
Last Thursday, in the face of mounting pressure from local election
officials, Florida's secretary of state postponed a push to identify
non-citizens on voter lists, saying the project would wait until a
new federal database is completed next year to help check the
citizenship of voters.
Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida,
said the state should stop attempting to run systematic, statewide
purges of voter rolls. She argued they have high error rates and
often disqualify legitimate voters.
"This ruling should be a major wake-up call in Tallahassee," she
The state has not decided if it will appeal the ruling by the 11th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We are reviewing the decision," said Brittany Lesser, a spokeswoman
for Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
The 2012 effort has been the focus of several lawsuits from voter
rights groups, which claimed it was plagued with errors.
Two years ago, Florida officials said they identified an initial
list of 182,000 potential non-citizens, but the number was reduced
to 200 after election authorities, prompted by news reports and
complaints from voting rights groups, acknowledged errors in the
Although attorneys for the state argued in the appeals court that
what happened in 2012 was no longer relevant, the judges decided to
rule on the issue because Florida has said it still plans to scrub
ineligible voters from registration rolls.
Scott defends the effort as an attempt to protect the integrity of
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The judges said the state can still remove non-citizens who are
discovered, but that no systematic culling of the rolls can be done
so close to the general election.
Critics have said from the start that Scott, a Republican up for
re-election this year, was running a purge that would net mostly
black and Hispanic voters, blocs which lean Democratic in statewide
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties
Union of Florida, said "the cries of voting-rights organizations in
2012 were well-founded." He said the court's ruling casts doubt on
motives of this year's now-suspended search for non-citizens on the
"The lasting impact should make the people of Florida skeptical of
voting manipulations that originate out of Tallahassee," he said.
Scott has said that he sought only clean elections, arguing that
non-citizens on the registration rolls would dilute the ballots of
(Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami;
editing by Kevin
Gray and Alden Bentley)
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