The Obama administration has agreed to let Florida use a national law enforcement database to purge residents suspected of not being U.S. citizens from their voter rolls.
The decision was announced in a letter to state GOP Gov. Rick Scott, who has pushed for Florida to receive access to the Homeland Security (DHS) registry of noncitizen residents, the Associated Press first reported.
The administration had blocked Florida’s request for access to the database for months, but the decision to allow access was spurred by a court decision in another voting-rights case in favor of the state.
Democrats though counter that efforts to purge voter rolls, combined with new states laws requiring voter identification at the polls run the risk of unfairly disenfranchising minority voters and other groups.
Attorney General Eric HolderEric H. HolderDNC chairman: Trump’s tax cuts and budget plans are 'morally bankrupt' Holder: Trump's election fraud claims are laying foundation for voter suppression Dem rep: Jim Crow's 'nieces and nephews' are in the White House MORE has been vocal about his intentions to challenge efforts to purge voters from state rolls and new laws requiring identification at the polls. Last week, at the NAACP convention in Houston, Texas, he blasted voter ID measures as similar to “poll taxes” and vowed to aggressively challenge them in courts.
Florida residents who are removed from the voter rolls under the process would bear the burden of verifying their citizenship in order to be allowed to vote.
The administration decision to allow Florida access to the DHS database comes after months of legal wrangling between the state and federal government.
Denied access to the federal database, Florida state officials began attempting to purge voter rolls of ineligible voters using Department of Motor Voter records to determine who was legally allowed to vote.
The Justice Department , however, raised concerns that method was violating the federal Voting Rights Act. After Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner filed a lawsuit to force DHS to share access to its Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, DOJ filed a suit of its own to enforce the Voting Rights Act in the state.
A federal district court, however, ruled against the DOJ’s call for an injunction to immediately stop Florida’s voter purge.
Earlier this month, House Democrats pressed for Judiciary Committee Chairman Lamar Smith to hold a hearing on Florida’s efforts.
“Since the 2000 elections, the state of Florida has not made the process of purging nor the names of individuals to be purged from the voter rolls public," said a letter from 16 Democrats, including Minority White Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Judiciary ranking member John Conyers (D-Mich.) wrote. "Thus, American citizens are left in the dark of how Florida chooses who will be purged, much like tens of thousands of wrongfully purged Florida citizens were in the 2000 and 2004 elections.”