Discovery in Store for Florida’s Voter Purge

     (CN) – Florida must face a challenge to a new program that critics say will disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters in the key battleground state, a panel of judges ruled.
     The Florida Division of Elections announced this spring that it would use a database-matching program to create lists of “potential noncitizens” who would then be contacted by election supervisors about their voting eligibility before Election Day.
     The American Civil Liberties Union reported that Florida forced more than 2,000 people to prove their citizenship in written notices that required an answer within 30 days.
     It quotes one Haitian-born man, Murat Limage, who worried that his citizenship had been revoked when he received the letter.
     “When I received the letter saying that they had information that I may not be a citizen, I was concerned that someone was taking away my citizenship,” Limage said, according to the ACLU. “I’m an American which means I can vote and that’s all I want to do.”
     He said he showed election authorities his passport, and he found out that a faulty state database of driver’s licenses had led to the creation of his notice.
     Pamela Gomez, a Dominican American, said she has not yet received the same notice, but she fears getting one because her driver’s license predates her citizenship.
     On June 6, the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, Limage and Gomez sued Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner to suspend the database-matching program for violations of the Voting Rights Act. Mi Familia is a nonprofit group serving Latino voters.
     Howard Simon, the executive director of the ACLU’s Florida division, blasted Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s “political spin” in announcing the database program.
     “The illegal program to purge eligible voters uses inaccurate information to remove eligible citizens from the voter rolls,” Simon said in June. “It seems that Governor Scott and his secretary of state cannot speak without hiding what they mean in political spin.”
     Florida tried to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging that practice did not change voting eligibility standards.
     But a three-judge panel for the Middle District of Florida ruled Tuesday that this question could not be resolved on a motion to dismiss.
     The case will proceed to discovery, according to the 12-page order.
     In its 2007 study, The Truth About Voter Fraud, New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice noted that it had never seen a case of a noncitizen knowingly violating voting laws.
     “We are not aware of any documented cases in which individual noncitizens have either intentionally registered to vote or voted while knowing that they were ineligible,” the Brennan Center reported. “Given that the penalty (not only criminal prosecution, but deportation) is so severe, and the payoff (one incremental vote) is so minimal for any individual voter, it makes sense that extremely few noncitizens would attempt to vote, knowing that doing so is illegal.”
     Aligning with this finding, the 7th Circuit in Chicago handed down a pair of rulings last month that dealt with the removal of noncitizens who had voted illegally in U.S. elections.
     A Kenyan man lost his challenge to removal because he did not argue that any public official told him that he could vote legally.
     But a woman born in the Philippines found relief because a DMV official allegedly checked the box that said she was a U.S. citizen when she indicated that she wanted to vote.

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