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Federal judge refuses to block Florida voter purging

A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] on Wednesday denied a request by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] to issue a temporary injunction barring Florida from continuing the practice of purging its voter rolls. 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. In his decision, Judge Robert Hinkle said that the law was put in place to prevent the removal of lawful voters, and that it does not bar the state of Florida from removing individuals who do not have a right to vote in the US. The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL) [advocacy website] has previously alleged that the purging of voter rolls discriminates against racial minorities, and that in practice, citizens are frequently forced to re-verify their citizenship or lose their right to vote. Florida Governor Rick Scott [official website] praised the decision [press release], saying that halting the purging process would result in "irreparable harm."

Florida also faces challenges to its purging policy from the ACLU-FL and a coalition of rights groups [JURIST reports] on behalf of several Florida citizens. The purging of voter rolls in Florida has created a national 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 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 [JURIST report]. Also this month, federal judge blocked [JURIST report] part of Florida's new election law 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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