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Fort Lauderdale judge hears arguments in Florida voter-purge lawsuit

A federal judge in Fort Lauderdale heard arguments Monday — but likely won’t rule until later this week — in a lawsuit challenging Florida’s contentious noncitizen voter purge.

At the heart of the case is a question of timing: Is it OK for the state to remove voters who are not citizens from the rolls 90 days before an election?

A coalition of liberal voting-rights groups, citing the risk of purging lawful citizen voters, says it’s not. Gov. Rick Scott’s elections department says it is — and last week produced a new list of 198 potentially ineligible voters to be reviewed by independent county elections supervisors.

Federal law generally prohibits purging voters 90 days from Election Day. That prohibition, which lists a few exceptions, is so broadly written that it should apply to noncitizens, argued Marc Goldman, an attorney for the coalition.

“If you do a big government program, the list is going to be inaccurate,” Goldman said. The law, he added, “is intended to bar any systematic purge.”

But Michael Carvin, an attorney for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, whose department created the list of potentially ineligible voters, said the state has discretion when dealing with noncitizens.

He countered that the 90-day prohibition applies to purging once-eligible voters who are no longer eligible — and not to noncitizens who were never supposed to register in the first place.

“If Fidel Castro showed up to vote, we couldn’t remove him from our rolls,” Carvin said, calling the coalition’s argument “absurd.”