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DOJ will sue Florida, says it created its own problems with noncitizen voter purge

Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said the Department of Justice will sue Florida over its noncitizen voter purge, which he called unlawful.

“Please immediately cease this unlawful conduct,” Perez wrote. “Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court.”

Perez responded to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s request last week that the DOJ explain why it’s not misreading federal law and that it explain why the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has refused Florida access to an immigration database that would help with the purge.

Said Perez: The database wouldn’t help. And Florida messed up the purge all by itself.

“In short, your claim that the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security have worked in concert to deny Florida access to the SAVE Program is simply wrong,” Perez wrote. “The significant problems you are encountering in administering this new program are of your own creation.”

Download 2012-06-11 ltr-1 Some excerpts:

“As one would expect with a new program that has not previously been tested against real-world information, your program has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters. Especially where the program is based on information collected sometimes years ago from driver’s license applications, the information is often going to be outdated, as a number of persons will subsequently have become citizens and lawfully registered to vote. Your data appear to be faulty in other ways that have resulted in native-born citizens, including a decorated World War II combat veteran, being sent letters demanding that they affirmatively prove their citizenship. We are aware that one county election supervisor who reviewed a state-provided list of over one thousand potentially ineligible voters determined that the list had a significant error rate, and that she advised you that further use of the list would ‘potentially disenfranchise eligible voters based on an inaccurate list.’”…

“This new program is therefore legally unenforceable in the five covered counties in Florida…”

“We are concerned about the inaccuracies in your letter regarding your request to access this program…”

“The Save Program relies on DHS records, which do not include a comprehensive and definitive listing of U.S. citizens, and does not include, for example, those born in the United States. We understand that, what the Save Program does provide is a means for governmental units, in appropriate circumstances and subject to the lawful conditions of that program, to verify documentation regarding naturalized U.S. citizens; U.S. citizens born abroad who derived citizenship from U.S. citizen parents and who have acquired certificates of citizenship; and the immigration status of certain categories of non-citizens."

"The Save Program can verify these individuals only if unique identifiers, such as alien registration numbers or certificate numbers found on immigration-related documents (such as a Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship) are provided. We understand that to ensure accurate verification of current status, and as a general requirement applied to all users of the program, the SAVE Program does not allow verification based on name and/or date of birth alone. We further understand that, as a general requirement applied to all users of the program, SAVE also requires users to submit copies of the immigration-related document if needed to complete the verification process.”

“To our understanding, the Florida Department of State admitted to DHS nearly eight months ago that the Division of Elections does not collect any of the immigration-related numeric identifiers or documentation that DHS has advised would be necessary to participate in the SAVE Program…”

“One of Congress’s concerns in enacting the protections of the VRA and the NVRA, and one of the Department’s concerns in enforcing federal law as enacted by Congress, is ensuring that state efforts to find and purge ineligible persons from voter registration lists do not endanger the ability of eligible U.S. citizens to register to vote and maintain their voter registration status.”