The Attorney General said the Justice Department’s order that Florida stop a plan to purges its voter rolls is not a political ploy.
Eric Holder’s comments came Thursday during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee. He asserted that “the notion that this is somehow a political ploy is inconsistent.”
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has pushed hard for the purge in advance of the coming elections in what he says is an attempt to clear voter rolls of non-citizens. But many Democrats believe the voter purge to be politically motivated and reminiscent of a similar purge of the rolls in Florida in advance of the 2000 presidential election.
The contested 2000 Florida results were resolved when the Republican-majority U.S. Supreme Court halted a state recount, leading the Republican Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris, to certify Republican George W. Bush the winner in Florida by 537 votes over Democrat Al Gore, which in turn gave Bush the presidency.
The Justice Department’s job is to “make sure federal law is enforced and voter purges happen that are consistent with the law,” Holder told the committee Thursday.
On Wednesday, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote Holder that the state is attempting to meet its obligation to maintain election-day integrity, according to a report by Reuters. ”Permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process,” Detzner wrote.
He added that Florida’s voter purge is consistent with federal voting laws and that it has no intention of ending the effort. Last week, the Civil Rights Division notified Florida leaders that its voter scrub may be in violation of federal law by unfairly affecting poor and minority voters. Voting Section chief T. Christian Herren has told Florida they must have federal approval for any changes to voting procedures because five counties with a history of discrimination are still covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Also, Herren has said that under the 1990s “motor voter” law, removing voters from rolls isn’t legal within 90 days of a federal election. Florida holds a primary election on Aug. 14.
Florida officials have complained that the Barack Obama administration through the Department of Homeland Security won’t give the state access to a federal immigration database, making it harder for the state to get accurate lists for a purge or meet the statutory deadline. On Thursday, Florida’s 67 county election supervisors refused to conduct the purge of the rolls ordered by the governor, saying the lists aren’t reliable and questioning the legality of the order.
Also this week, Republican Florida Rep. Tom Rooney sent Holder a letter calling the department’s attempts at blocking the purge “a new low.”
“The Department of Justice under President Obama has become so politicized that it consistently puts aiding the President’s reelection campaign ahead of upholding justice and enforcing the rule of law,” Rooney wrote. “The Attorney General is now actively working to enable voter fraud and allow illegal immigrants to cast votes in the state of Florida – this is a new low, even for this Administration.”
Former Bush-era Civil Rights Division official Hans von Spakovsky told the conservative Sunshine State News that the Justice Department’s attempts to block the voter purge “directly abets vote thieves in a key state as Holder’s boss seeks re-election.”
“Fictitious voters who are fraudulently registered are also not mentioned in the Voting Rights Act. Yet under the Justice Department reading of the statute, Florida could not remove Mickey Mouse if it found the Walt Disney character illegally registered at the Magic Kingdom,” von Spakovsky said.