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Florida to sue DHS in voter registration battle

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said he will sue the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to move forward with his controversial attempt to purge the voter rolls in his state of ineligible voters.

“I have a job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters,” Scott told Fox News on Monday. “We’ve been asking for the Department of Homeland Security’s database, SAVE, for months, and they haven’t given it to us. So this afternoon, we will be filing a lawsuit, the secretary of State of Florida, against the Department of Homeland Security to give us that database. We want to have fair, honest elections in our state and we have been put in a position that we have to sue the federal government to get this information.”

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Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner produced the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C. district court on Monday, shortly after, along with a statement.

“For nearly a year, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has failed to meet its legal obligation to provide us the information necessary to identify and remove ineligible voters from Florida’s voter rolls,” Detzner said. “We can’t let the federal government delay our efforts to uphold the integrity of Florida elections any longer. We’ve filed a lawsuit to ensure the law is carried out and we are able to meet our obligation to keep the voter rolls accurate and current.”

Last week, the Department of Justice demanded Florida stop the voter-roll purge, saying it violated the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and was reliant on faulty Department of Motor Vehicle records to determine who is eligible to vote.

The Scott administration responded with a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder saying it would continue the voter-roll purge, and is now seeking the DHS federal database as a part of that push.

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Shortly after Scott's announcement, the DOJ responded with a letter to Detzner saying it was launching a suit of its own against the state.

Late Monday, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a letter to Detzner that “I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in Federal Court.”

“One of Congress’s concerns in enacting the protections of the VRA and NVRA, and one of the Department’s concerns in enforcing federal law as enacted by Congress, is ensuring that state efforts to find and purge ineligible persons from voter registration lists do not endanger the ability of eligible U.S. citizens to register to vote and maintain their voter registration status,” the letter read in part.

Republicans argue that state voter registration rolls are filled with noncitizens and others that are ineligible to vote. Democrats argue that the GOP is trying to strip voting rights from groups that tend to vote Democratic, and that there are only a handful of cases of voter fraud of the kind the GOP seeks to root out.

Any Florida resident that is eligible to vote that is purged from the voter rolls would have to verify their citizenship in order to be allowed to vote.

The lawsuits reignited an issue that on Monday, the Miami Herald said was “all but over.”

“The 67 county elections supervisors — who have final say over voter purges —are not moving forward with the purge for now because nearly all of them don’t trust the accuracy of a list of nearly 2,700 potential noncitizens identified by the state’s elections office,” the Miami Herald reported. “The U.S. Department of Justice has ordered the state to stop the purge.”

Scott is a Tea Party favorite who came into office in the 2010 wave election, but has seen his favorability rating plummet into the low 30s since taking office. The lawsuit could spark another heated election-year clash in a battleground state, similar to the Democratic attempt to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) after he stripped public workers of their collective bargaining rights.

— This story was last updated at 7:10 p.m.

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