By Alicia M. Cohn - 06/12/12 12:38 PM EDT
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) called his determination to remove ineligible voters from Florida's voting rolls "a no-brainer" on Tuesday, charging the administration with "stonewalling" the attempt.
"We're sitting here trying to watch how we spend our money, pay down our debt, do the right things for the citizens of our state, and the federal government tells us, 'Oh, no, you can't do the right thing for our citizens and we're going to sue you,' " Scott said on Fox News. "It doesn't make sense."
"This is protecting the rights of U.S. citizens and not diluting their vote by non-U.S. citizens," Scott said. "When non-U.S. citizens register and vote, it is illegal, it is a crime."
Florida began purging county voting rolls this year in order to eliminate ineligible voters ahead of what will likely be a hotly contested election, but stopped due to the administration's protests.
The DOJ earlier this month warned that Florida's move violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965, landmark legislation that sought to end racially discriminatory voting practices. According to the DOJ, Florida is depending on faulty records to determine ineligible voters. But Scott said DHS has refused to allow his state access to the national immigration database it needs to confirm citizenship status. Florida has been requesting access to the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database for nine months, according to Scott.
Florida is now suing the administration for access.
"We've done all the right things," Scott said in another appearance on CNN's "Starting Point." "We're put in a position where we don't have a choice but to sue them to get access to a database ... to make sure that your right as a citizen is not diluted by a non-citizen."
Scott blasted the department for "stalling" on Florida's request for nine months. "The Florida Secretary of State's office has been working with Homeland Security for months asking for his database so we can do it right," he said. "We tried to use our own database to do it ... even with that database, we've found 100 people not entitled to vote and we know 50 of them have voted."
Scott's critics charge that Scott is looking to help Republicans in November, particularly in the presidential election. Florida is expected to be a critical battleground state and has decided the presidential election in the past, notably in 2000. Scott dismissed the charges, saying the issue is nonpartisan.
"I can't imagine any U.S. citizen wants a non-citizen to dilute a citizen's vote," he said on CNN. "We want people to participate in our races. That's what America's about. I want everybody to vote ... but not non-U.S. citizens."
But on Fox, he did acknowledge the importance of getting the job done before the November election.
"Elections sometimes are really close," he said. "We don't want non-U.S. citizens on our voting rolls and voting, so I'm going to do my best to get it done as quickly as I can."
While Republicans say state voter registration rolls are filled with ineligible voters, Democrats allege that the efforts are attempts at voter suppression and the issue has led to battles over voting rights laws in multiple states.
Attorney General Erick Holder has challenged laws requiring government-issued photo identification at the polls in South Carolina and Texas.