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Rick Scott: I'm suing Homeland Security over database stonewalling in noncitizen-voter purge

Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official sued the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on Monday, accusing the agency of unlawful “recalcitrance” for refusing Florida access to a database that could help the state spot and remove noncitizens from the voter rolls.

"We have a right to this database,” Scott said late Monday on Fox’s Your World with Neil Cavuto. “It's supposed to be used for voting registration. I look forward to them giving us the database but, again, we don't' have a choice but to sue them this afternoon.”

Florida’s lawsuit is just the latest high-profile twist in its controversial effort to purge noncitizens from the voter rolls. About 141 noncitizens have been found on the voter rolls – at least 47 of whom may have unlawfully cast ballots.

Download 6.11.2012 DOS vs. DHS, re SAVE Database-1

On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union sued Florida in federal court to stop the purge, saying the effort violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The ACLU also noted the voter purge disproportionately targets minorities.

The Department of Justice said two weeks ago that the Florida effort probably violated that voting act as well as another federal law, the National Voter Registration Act, which bans voter purges within 90 days of a federal election – in this case, May 16. DOJ ordered the state to stop the purge.

But Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner last week refused to stop and told DOJ in a letter that it’s misreading federal law.

Detzner said Florida didn’t need to seek federal permission under the Voting Rights Act to embark on the purge because DOJ had already signed off on a state law that allows Florida to remove noncitizen voters. Also, he said, the 90-day ban on purging voters doesn’t apply to the removal of noncitizens.

Detzner asked DOJ to answer by Monday a number of technical questions about the law and to render an opinion about whether the Department of Homeland Security should have given the state access to the SAVE database.

As Monday wound to a close and DOJ appeared unwilling to respond, Detzner sued Homeland Security in his capacity as secretary of state.

Detzner and Scott have pointed out that Florida’s purge would have been conducted much sooner, but the Department of Homeland Security refused Florida the right to access SAVE, which details which immigrants become citizens.

Florida first asked DHS last year to access the database to check its voter rolls. The state currently has limited permission to use SAVE to determine welfare benefits and motor-vehicle issues.

Unable to get the Homeland Security to respond, Florida’s elections division then began comparing the voter rolls with a Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles database, which contains some citizenship information.

But that information can be out of date. And that can lead the state to mistake a lawful voter as a noncitizen.

Because of the high error rate, the overwhelming majority of county elections supervisors have stopped the effort to purge potential noncitizens from a state-generated list of nearly 2,700 names furnished to the counties in April.

That’s a fraction of a list of 180,000 potential noncitizens the state initially identified.
So far, the overwhelming number of people contacted on the list – more than 500 -- have been identified as citizens.

“For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voter rolls,” said Secretary Detzner. “We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer. We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”
Here's the press release TALLAHASSEE – Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Florida Department of State today filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for failing to meet its statutory obligation to provide access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) database, a database of information necessary to confirm the status of potential non-citizens and help ensure the integrity of Florida elections.

“For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voter rolls,” said Secretary Detzner. “We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer. We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”

In 2011, the Florida Department of State received information from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles indicating that non-citizens may be registered to vote in Florida. However, while processing the new information, it became evident that the Department of State’s ability to validate a person’s legal status as up-to-date was limited. In order to validate such information, the department began seeking access to the SAVE database.

After nearly a year of requests for access to the SAVE database, the federal government has shown no signs of meeting their legal requirement to provide access. However, federal law expressly requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to respond to state inquiries seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual within its jurisdiction for any purpose authorized by law. Additionally, DHS recently stated that the SAVE database could be used for voter registration purposes in a document published September 21, 2011.

http://bit.ly/KoltOF

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