Federal Court: Florida Voter Purge Was Illegal

Image: Voters line up to cast ballots in the U.S. Presidential election in Boca Raton, Florida
Voters line up to cast ballots in the U.S. Presidential election in Boca Raton, Florida November 6, 2012. REUTERS

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Immigrants and voting rights groups said a federal appeals court's ruling that Florida's 2012 efforts to purge non-citizens from voter rolls violated federal law was a win for many immigrant and minority voters.

“The Court’s decision is a victory not only for the thousands of voters who were wrongly targeted by Florida’s 2012 purge list; it’s a win for naturalized citizens and for democracy,” said Katherine Culliton-González, Advancement Project Director of Voter Protection.

In 2012, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the state would take measures to remove suspected non-citizens from voter rolls. Groups such as the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights and the union 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East-Florida joined a lawsuit by Karla Acia, a naturalized citizen from Nicaragua and Melande Antoine, a naturalized citizen from Haiti. The two women had been on a "voter purge list" and wrongly identified as non-citizens.

The initial purge flagged nearly 2,700 registered voters as non-citizens, and out of these over 80 percent were non-whites.

Jose Perez, deputy general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, said “Florida’s belated 2012 voter purge seeking to remove naturalized citizens from the election rolls was clearly targeted towards Latino voters, and a blatant attempt to disenfranchise Latinos from participating in the electoral process.”

He added that the National Voter Registration Act "clearly prohibits purge activities within 90 days of a federal election because of the potential for error and voter intimidation."