Florida granted access to federal database in effort to purge state voter rolls

[JURIST] Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner [official profile] on Saturday announced that the federal government will allow Florida access to a US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [official website] immigration database to challenge individuals' voting rights if the state suspects them of not being US citizens. The Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) [official website] database is a web-based service that lists by alien registration number [USCIS materials] individuals who are legally in the US on either visas or green cards, meaning they are ineligible to vote. Under the terms of the agreement, Florida will be able to challenge a voter [AP report] only by providing a "unique identifier" — such as the alien registration number — but the state will be prevented from using only a name and birthdate to seek federal data about a suspected noncitizen. The federal government had denied Florida access to SAVE, prompting the state to sue DHS in federal court [JURIST report]. DHS and Florida finally made a deal after the US District Court for the Northern District of Florida in late June rejected a lawsuit [order, PDF] by the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] that had been filed under a provision of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) [EAC materials] in order to stop Florida from continuing its voter registration purge [JURIST report] beyond the 90-day "quiet period" prescribed by the NVRA. Florida sued DHS for SAVE access later on the same day DOJ had filed its NVRA lawsuit.

The purging of voter rolls in Florida has created controversy in recent weeks. Florida has also recently faced 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. In June the state said continue to search for ineligible voters even after receiving a letter from DOJ ordering them to stop the practice, prompting DOJ to sue the state. Also that month a 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 Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text].

 

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