MIAMI (CN) – Four civil rights groups, a union and two voters sued Secretary of State Ken Detzner in Federal Court over Florida’s purge of its voting rolls.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar challenge from the U.S. Department of Justice, to which Florida replied with a lawsuit of its own against Uncle Sam.
Detzner announced in May that his Department of State and the Department of Motor Vehicles were conducting an “Alleged Non-Citizen Voter Purge Program,” as the complaint describes it, “to identify non-citizens who are currently on Florida’s voter rolls,” the complaint states, citing Detzner’s May 9 press statement.
The voting purge uses voter registration information, including names and ages, to identify people to be purged; people who do not respond to Florida’s request for proof of citizenship are removed from the voter rolls, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs say citizens who are minorities are overrepresented on the purge list.
“Florida’s voter registration form includes race identification, and the state’s race identification data of the persons on the purge list clearly demonstrates the disparate impact of the program: the purge list itself shows 61 percent of the persons on purge list are Hispanic, while 14 percent of registered voters are Hispanic, 16 percent of the persons on the purge list are black, while 14 percent of registered Florida voters are black; 16 percent of the persons on the purge list are white, while 70 percent of registered Florida voters are white; and 5 percent of the persons on the purge list are Asian, while 2 percent of registered Florida voters are Asian. Adding up the disparate impact, 82 percent of those on the purge list are people of color. These numbers are glaringly disproportionate,” the complaint states.
It adds: “Many black and Hispanic persons in Florida have suffered and continue to suffer discrimination and bear the effects of that discrimination today, including a history of discrimination and neglect in voting-related activities.
“In conducting the Alleged Non-Citizen Voter Purge Program, defendant has failed to ensure that all Hispanics and black voters, particularly Haitian-Americans, have an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and to elect the representatives of their choice.
“Plaintiffs are concerned about the curtailment of their communities’ voting rights as a result of the Alleged Non-Citizen Voter Purge Program …
“Also, the Alleged Non-Citizen Voter Purge Program is highly inaccurate, further discriminating against the minorities that are already disproportionately over-represented. In fact, while defendant asserts that the Alleged Non-Citizen Voter Purge Program does not seek to purge eligible citizens, the statistics tell a vastly different story. Of the 2,700 persons targeted by defendant, the overwhelming majority of those who responded are United States citizens.”
Plaintiffs demand that the program be stopped, purged voters be reinstated, and that the state create a process that does not deny minorities an equal opportunity to vote.
The plaintiffs are Karla Vanessa Arcia (a Nicaraguan-American), Melande Antoine (a Haitian-American), the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the National Congress For Puerto Rican Rights, Florida New Majority, and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.
They are represented by Lida Rodriguez-Taseff, with Duane Morris.