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Purge-snagged non-citizen voter faces five years in prison

As the debate continues over whether or not to purge Florida's voting rolls of potential non-citizens before the November elections, at least one person will be going to jail for voting illegally in 2008.

Josef Sever, who was born in Austria, pleaded guilty Thursday to voting in the November 4, 2008 presidential election even though he is not a U.S. citizen, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. He lives in Plantation.

Sever, who also received a concealed firearms license and bought nine guns under the pretense that he was U.S. citizen, faces up to five years in prison for the voting and gun-related charges.

According to court records, Sever's illegal voting was discovered during Gov. Rick Scott's controversial push to identify potential non-citizens on voting rolls using information from the state motor vehicle agency. 

Sever, 52, moved from Austria to Canada as a child, and became a naturalized Canadian citizen in 1979. He came to the U.S., and registered to vote in 2008, claiming he was a U.S. citizen on his Broward County voter registration application. He then voted in the 2008 presidential election. Sever also bought several firearms in Hialeah, stating that he was a U.S. citizen. It's not clear if he registered with any particular party.

The Department of Justice credited the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and  U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with doing the investigation.

DOJ has fueded with Scott over his voter purge, challenging the purge in the courts. The Justice Department argued that the purge was taking place too close to the actual election, violating the Voter Registration Act. A judge threw out the challenge after Scott's administration said it would not be using the list to purge voters.

The original purge list of 2,600 names did find some non-citizens who may have voted, but many of those targeted were actually citizens.

After the Aug. 14 primary, Scott said he would take up the voter purge issue before the general election on November 6.