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Third Suit Challenging Florida's Voter Purge Calls the Move Discriminatory

Florida is now facing a third lawsuit challenging the Department of State’s efforts to purge ineligible voters from the rolls. A group of voter and civil rights organizations are filing a lawsuit alleging the purge is discriminatory.

Kathy Culliton-Gonzalez is with a group called “Advancement Project.” She said the organizations are the first to sue under Section Two of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It’s a move she said will give their suit staying power.

“It’s not going to only be a ban on the purges in the 90 days before any federal election, but it’s going to be permanent and year round,"  Culliton-Gonzalez said.

 Culliton-Gonzalez said that’s what sets her groups apart from the others that have been filed thus far. She said Section Two of the Voting Rights Act specifically prohibits discrimination of voters of color, and said that’s clearly what Florida’s purge does.

“This year, similar to years in the past, 87-percent of people on Florida’s purge list are people of color,” Culliton-Gonzalez said.

And that’s one reason the group took issue with  Governor Rick Scott’s argument that anyone inappropriately removed from the rolls can cast a provisional ballot. Culliton-Gonzalez said the move intimidates minority voters and Ben Hovland, with the Fair Elections Legal Network said removing voters from the rolls might keep those voters from getting important information.

“Florida statutes require you to cast a provisional ballot from the correct precinct. So if someone were to show up on election Day, well one, if they are removed from the list, they’re not going to get the correct information about their correct precinct and then if they show up at a polling location they see, but no one is able to verify if they’re in the correct precinct the provisional ballot they may be casting very well might not be counted," Hovland said.

And Katie Flanagan, with Project Vote, said the governor’s attitude about the situation is upsetting.

“I find it very disappointing that the governor displays such a cavalier attitude about eligible voters being dropped from the list,” Flanagan said.

Meanwhile Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner maintains his office is working to ensure the integrity of Florida’s elections.

“The credibility of the very election process that we’ve been talking about relies on good voter rolls, clean voter rolls of eligible voters," Detzner said.

Department of State officials contend the purge is not discriminatory, saying the only  criteria they’re looking for is whether someone is eligible to cast a vote.




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Regan McCarthy covers healthcare and government in Tallahassee, Florida. She is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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