Gov. Rick Scott: Florida is 'absolutely not' targeting minorities in noncitizen voter purge

Gov. Rick Scott said Friday his administration is “absolutely not” intentionally targeting minorities as part of a noncitizen voter purge that the U.S. Department of Justice has ordered Florida to halt.

Scott wouldn’t say whether the state will heed DOJ’s order, which it rendered last night in a two-page letter accusing Florida of breaking two federal voting laws.

“The Secretary of State’s office is going to review what the Department of Justice has said," he said “And then we’re going to make a decision.”

But the decision might have already been made for Scott — by the county supervisors of elections who announced moments later that they will cease the search for noncitizen voters.

The hunt for noncitizen voters began about nine months ago. But, because most immigrants are of Hispanic descent in Florida, the attempted purging of the rolls disproportionately targets them.

Asked to clear up the controversy of whether the state is targeting minorities, Scott said “absolutely not” during Friday’s visit to Miami where he later meet with National Hurricane Center officials and local business leaders.

“The Secretary of State’s office is doing the right thing,” Scott said. “We want everyone to register to vote. We want people to vote. But we want fair elections. We want people who have the right to vote go out there and vote.”

So far, Florida has flagged 2,700 potential noncitizen voters and sent the list to county elections supervisors, who have found the data and methodology to be flawed and problematic. The list of potential noncitizen voters – many of whom have turned out to be lawful citizens and voters – disproportionately hits minorities, especially Hispanics.

About 58 percent of those flagged as potential noncitizens are Hispanics, Florida’s largest ethnic immigrant population, a Miami Herald analysis found. Hispanics make up 13 percent of the overall 11.3 million active registered voters.

Independent voters and Democrats are the most likely to face being purged from the rolls. Republicans and non-Hispanic whites are the least likely to face removal.

Under the 1965 Voting Rights Act, Florida needs federal approval before it makes changes to voting because five Florida counties — Monroe, Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee and Hendry — had minority-voting troubles decades ago.

"Our records do not reflect that these changes affecting voting have been submitted to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for judicial review or to the Attorney General for administrative review as required by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act," Christian Herren, the DOJ’s lead civil rights lawyer wrote Thursday night.

"Accordingly, it is necessary that they either be brought before that court or submitted to the Attorney General for a determination that they neither have the purpose nor will have the effect of discriminating on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group under Section 5."

He gave the state until June 6 to inform the DOJ of its planned course of action.

Herren also said that the National Voter Registration Act bans Florida’s effort because it says “a State shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/06/01/2827629/gov-rick-scott-florida-is-absolutely.html#storylink=cpy