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Bill Nelson: Governor "should ensure the credibility of our voter rolls."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is poised this afternoon to give a short speech on the Senate floor decrying Republican Gov. Rick Scott's controversial non-citizen voter purge.

Yesterday, Scott’s chief elections official sued, filing a federal lawsuit in Washington that accused the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of unlawfully refusing Florida access to a federal database that could help the state spot and remove noncitizens from the voter rolls.

Moments after the state filed suit, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez roared back in a sharply worded five-page letter from the U.S. Department of Justice, which ordered the state two weeks ago to stop the purge because it could violate two federal voting laws.

The state’s program is too "faulty," and comes too close to election time to not endanger the voting rights of thousands of lawful U.S. citizens, Perez wrote. He said Florida has repeatedly ignored Homeland Security’s warning that the department’s database, known as SAVE, isn’t designed for the noncitizen hunt on which Florida embarked.

Here are Nelson's prepared remarks:

"As I was heading to the Capitol this morning, I couldn’t help but think about the jolting news from my state: the Justice Department will sue Florida over its purge of voting rolls.

Being a native Floridian whose family came to Florida 183 years ago, and having served the people of my state for years, I simply cannot believe the State of Florida would deliberately make it more difficult for lawful citizens to vote.

But the governor did sign the new law last summer to reduce early voting days and blunt voter registration drives.

Then he launched this massive purge of the voter rolls - hunting for suspected noncitizens.  And in so doing, he’s now defying federal authorities who say you cannot conduct a purge of voter rolls so close to an election.

The governor and his administration should ensure the credibility of our voter rolls.  It should have a program to suppress fraud. 

But above all else, the state must ensure that every lawful citizen who has the right to vote can do so without impediment.

It was a long time ago, but something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said about voting rights seems appropriate again.  Dr. King said, "The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions.  It is democracy turned upside down."

I hope the governor will heed those words."