October 05, 2012 at 9:50 am
A federal judge in Fort Lauderdale ruled Thursday that Florida’s purge of potential non-citizens on the voter rolls can continue.
U.S. District Judge William Zloch denied a request from a coalition of voting-rights groups to halt the purge of 198 potential non-citizens. The groups, in a hearing Monday, argued that federal law prohibits purging the voter rolls 90 days before an election.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, however, said the state has an obligation to ensure voter rolls are current and accurate. Zloch agreed, ruling that the state has a “compelling interest” to ensure that non-citizens do not cast ballots.
“The court finds no reason to conclude that the 90-day provision applies to anything other than removals of registrants based on a change in residence,” Zloch said his 24-page ruling.
Zloch said the law “does not require the state to idle on the sidelines until a non-citizen violates the law before the state can act.”
“We’re very pleased another federal court has ruled that Florida’s efforts to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls are lawful and in the best interest of Florida voters,” Detzner said in an e-mailed statement. “Ensuring ineligible voters can’t cast a ballot is a fundamental aspect of conducting fair elections.”
One of the groups that tried to stop the purge said Zloch’s ruling could prevent legitimate votes from being cast.
“Removing individuals this close to the election could jeopardize the right to vote for eligible citizens that ended up on the voter purge list due to faulty matching programs,” said Ben Hovland, senior counsel at the Fair Elections Legal Network.
Florida’s original purge list contained more than 2,600 names but was rife with problems. Last month, a revised list of 198 names of possible non-citizens was produced through use of a Homeland Security Department citizenship database.