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Federal court hears arguments on Florida voting laws

A lawyer for the state of Florida on Thursday defended Florida's voter-purging policy in his oral argument before the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website]. The lawyer argued that there is no evidence to verify [AP report] that the new practices disproportionately affect minorities, as the federal government contends. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed this suit against Florida last week after Florida ignored a letter ordering them to stop purging their voter rolls [JURIST reports]. The DOJ alleges that Florida's policy violates the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text] as well as the National Voter Registration Act [text], which requires all voter roll maintenance to cease 90 days before the primary election, meaning all purging in Florida should have stopped by May 16. Florida also faces challenges to its purging policy from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL) [official website; JURIST report] and a coalition of rights groups [JURIST report] on behalf of several Florida citizens.

The purging of voter rolls in Florida has created controversy in recent weeks. Earlier this month, amidst calls to end its purging practices, Florida filed suit [JURIST report] seeking access to a federal database that will help it verify the citizenship of registered voters. Earlier in June, a spokesperson for Florida Governor Rick Scott said that the state would continue to search for ineligible voters [Huffington Post report], even after receiving a letter from the DOJ ordering them to stop the practice. Also this month, federal judge blocked [JURIST report] part of Florida's new election alw that required any group that conducts a voter registration drive to turn in registration forms within 48 hours of collecting them or else face a $1,000 per day fine. Last October, the state submitted a request [JURIST report] to a federal court challenging the VRA.

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