A judge on Wednesday rejected the federal government’s attempt to block Florida’s voter purge of non-U.S. citizens, partly because the purge has been suspended. U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said federal laws that prohibit the systematic removal of voters close to an election do not refer to noncitizens. He also accepted the state’s claim that its purging efforts are over for now. The ruling came as part of a request by the U.S. Department of Justice, which sought a retraining order stopping the purge efforts. The agency argued that the purge violates a federal law, the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which outlaws systematic removals of voters less than 90 days before a federal election. Florida’s primary is Aug. 14. Hinkle interpreted the law to refer to people who were lawfully registered to vote before being removed, such as felons or the deceased. He said the law is silent as to noncitizens.
Justice Department lawyer John Bert Russ deplored the Florida “dragnet” that he said has unfairly forced U.S. citizens to prove their legitimacy. But he could not cite any instances of a legitimate voter being removed from the rolls. At one point, Russ asked the judge to restore the voting rights of everyone who has been purged from the rolls, an idea Hinkle flatly rejected. “Leaving ineligible voters on the list is not a solution. Noncitizens should not be voting,” the judge said. “People need to know we are running an honest election.”
Attorney Michael Carvin, representing Secretary of State Ken Detzner, said the state is suing to seek access to a Department of Homeland Security database to better ascertain the citizenship status of voters. The federal agency has so far refused the state’s request, claiming it has not received necessary information from the state. “If we get the (federal) data, I do expect the state to proceed and protect the integrity of the voter rolls,” Carvin said.