A panel for the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta on Tuesday deemed illegal a 2012 attempt by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizens and other ineligible voters. The ruling, which the justices said was intended to thwart future questionable roll purges, comes amid a new wave of pitched battles between Republicans who say they want to make voting fairer by curbing voting-booth shenanigans and Democrats who say adding restrictions to voting is a blatant attempt to keep poor people and blacks – many of whom are Democrats – from casting ballots. Since the US Supreme Court unshackled most Southern states from the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act last year, Republican-led legislatures have launched efforts to create what they say are more uniform election systems to ensure that each vote is equal. Republicans in Ohio and Wisconsin have curbed weekend voting, which critics say would most affect blacks who often carpooled to polling places from church on Sunday. In North Carolina, Republicans have stiffened early-voting and registration rules.
In Tuesday’s 2-to-1 ruling, the 11th Circuit panel said that the two plaintiffs in a lawsuit – two foreign-born but naturalized women – were directly injured by the purge after their names were thrown out by mistake.
Florida had argued that both women were ultimately allowed to vote, but the two majority justices didn’t buy that, saying, “there was a realistic probability that they would be misidentified due to unintentional mistakes ….”
The state originally identified 180,000 questionable voters, comparing rolls primarily to driver’s license data. The secretary of State cut that list to 2,600, then to 198. At the end of the process, 85 voter names were thrown out.