Voting Rights in Florida Take a Significant Step Forward

Sep 12, 2012 –

Voting rights in Florida took another significant step forward on Thursday, when a coalition of plaintiffs reached a settlement with the State of Florida in a groundbreaking voter protection case.

The plaintiffs include Florida New Majority, 1199SEIU UHWE, two individual union members of 1199 who were targeted in the voter purge, as well as other local South Florida groups. Legal representation was handled by the Advancement Project and other national voting rights organizations.

The settlement will protect the rights of more than 180,000 voters in Florida to cast a regular ballot in November’s general election. The plaintiffs will continue litigating one claim in the lawsuit, asserting that Florida is prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act from implementing a voter purge program of purported non-citizens within 90 days of an election. Florida is currently training election staff on the use of the federal SAVE database, and plans to resume purge efforts in the next month, so the lawsuit will determine whether the State is allowed to remove voters before the general election.

The suit was filed in June following Florida’s illegal purge of suspected non-citizens from its list of eligible voters in the spring. Florida elections supervisors, at the behest of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, issued letters to more than 2,600 residents threatening to remove them from the voter rolls unless they provided proof of citizenship within 30 days.

Ultimately, less than eight percent of those targeted voters were kicked off the roles, but the chilling effect on thousands of legitimate voters was a major concern of the groups filing the suit, particularly since the database used to disenfranchise the voters was riddled with inaccuracies.

“In a state with 11.4 million registered voters and little evidence of illegitimate voting by non-citizens, it’s clear that this purge was timed to impact the 2012 election,” said Florida New Majority executive director Gihan Perera. “The targets of the purge were disproportionately Black and Hispanic and that just runs counter to the American values of fairness and justice.”

Look no further than Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner’s statement to media in an attempt to reassure voters that their voices matter: “We know that every vote counts, especially here in Florida where 537 votes decided the presidential election in 2000.”