Federal Appeals Court: Florida's 2012 Voter Purge Was Illegal

Apr 2, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott's non-citizen voter purge comes under legal fire.
Credit FLgov.com

A federal court ruled Tuesday that Gov. Rick Scott’s effort to remove non-citizens from the state’s voter rolls several weeks shy of the 2012 presidential election was illegal.

According to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Florida’s non-citizen voter purge in 2012 violated the National Voter Registration Act.

The court ruling said it was illegal for the state to “systematically” remove voters from its rolls within 90 days of an election.

The lawsuit was filed by two naturalized citizens in Miami, who were targeted in that voter purge. The Advancement Project litigated the case on behalf of the two appellants -- along with a coalition of other civil rights groups. The groups claim the state was improperly removing minorities close to an important election.

The Advancement Project’s Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez said her group has been fighting voter purges in Florida since 2000 when the state launched an effort that primarily targeted African Americans.

“No matter how many times Florida keeps changing up its purge procedures, we’re going to be vigilant, and it looks like the law agrees with us, at least in this case,” she said.

Culliton-Gonzalez said this recent ruling is a victory, but it’s very narrow because it only settles how close to an election the state can systematically remove voters.

“The fact that they may do this again in 2016 is looming at the moment,” she said. “And the fact that they fought us so hard in court is also an indication of a lack of willingness to run elections in a way that is fair and free and accessible to everyone.”

The state can ask for a rehearing. A spokesperson for Florida’s Secretary of State Ken Detzner said they are reviewing the decision.

The ruling comes just days after Detzner announced the state was suspending its most recent non-citizen voter purge.