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Florida sues for access to federal voter database

The administration of Florida Governor Rick Scott [official website] filed suit [complaint, PDF] on Monday in the US District Court for the District of Columbia against Department of Homeland Security and US Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services [official websites] for banning the state from comparing names in the state voter system with those in the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program System of Records (SAVE) [text, PDF] in order to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls. The state is seeking [press release] access to the SAVE program with the lawsuit. Florida alleged that it found nearly 100 non-citizens on voter rolls so far even without the access to the federal database. The same day, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] responded by a five-page letter urging the state to cease its efforts to obtain access to the federal database. Assistant US Attorney General Thomas Perez noted that Florida's plan of using the SAVE program to identify non-citizen voters would violate two federal laws and stressed the proximity of the upcoming vote. He pointed out that because the vote is very near, the state's plan would endanger voting rights of thousands of legal citizens. With the letter, Perez made clear that the DOJ will initiate a legal action if the state fails to comply with its demand to cease the purge. The DOJ had already sent a demand letter last month [JURIST report] to the state officials to stop purging its voting rolls, a process that is not approved under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text] or the National Voter Registration Act [text, PDF].

Florida had faced several legal complaints and criticism for its voting laws. On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida (ACLU-FL) [advocacy website] announced [JURIST report] that it will file a suit against seeking to end Florida's controversial purging of voter rolls. It contended that the state's policy violates federal law, discriminates against racial minorities, and that in practice, citizens are frequently forced to re-verify their citizenship or lose their right to vote. Earlier this month, judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida [official website] blocked [JURIST report] part of a new Florida 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. Florida took also initiatives against the federal government interfering with state's enactment of voting laws. Last October, the state submitted a request [JURIST report] to a federal court challenging the VRA.

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