The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] on Thursday sent a letter [text] to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner [official profile], demanding that the state 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]. Under the National Voter Registration Act, Florida's voter roll maintenance must have stopped 90 days before the August 14 primary election, meaning all purging should have stopped by May 16. Florida also failed to seek the necessary DOJ or federal court approval for the process it used to purge voter rolls. Florida's process, which is designed to remove non-citizens from voter rolls, has caused some US citizens to be improperly flagged and removed from voter rolls. Despite the DOJ warning, a spokesperson for Florida Governor Rick Scott [official website] said that the state plans to continue to search for ineligible voters [Huffington Post report] and purging the rolls. Scott contends that the roll maintenance is necessary to keep the voter rolls accurate and keep non-citizens from voting even over additional objections from county officials and evidence that many of the purged voters are minorities. The DOJ requested that Florida respond to its inquiries by June 6.
The VRA's prohibitions on some southern states' voting regulations is a contentious national issue. Florida challenged [JURIST report] the VRA in October in federal court, however, other states have continue to be affected by the law. In April, the DOJ filed a brief [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that a recently passed Texas photo identification law [SB 14 materials] will have a disproportionate impact on the state's Latino voters, in violation of the VRA. In The Voting Rights Act: Limiting Partisan Barriers to Voter Participation [JURIST op-ed], JURIST columnist Chris Elmendorf argues that the "purpose" rather than the "effects" prong of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act may offer a better basis to challenge recent state regulations of the voting process.