Justice Department sues Florida over effort to purge voter rolls of non-citizens

The Justice Department on Tuesday sued Florida to block its effort to purge its voter rolls of non-U.S. citizens and to stop further attempts before the November elections.

The suit against the state and Secretary of State Ken Detzner alleges Florida violated its obligations under the federal National Voter Registration Act by conducting a “systematic program to purge voters from its rolls within the 90-day quiet period before an election for federal office.”

The suit also alleges Florida violated the law by using “inaccurate and unreliable” voter verification procedures, according to a statement by Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division.

“It appears that Florida has undertaken a new program for voter removal … that has critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters,” Perez wrote.

The suit came one day after GOP Gov. Rick Scott announced his administration is filing suit against the federal government in connection with the same issue.

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    “This is not a partisan issue,” Scott said Tuesday on Fox News. “This is protecting the rights of U.S. citizens and not diluting their vote by non-U.S. citizens.”

    Florida's suit is being filed against the Department of Homeland Security, claiming the federal government is denying the state access to a database that would allow it to verify the citizenship of registered voters.

    Scott's administration has said the federal government is skirting the law by denying Florida access to the database.

    Scott also defended the initiative and denied the purge could unfairly target Latino residents.

    Florida last year began looking for non-U.S. citizens on the voter rolls. A comparison of driver's license records with voter registration records turned up as many as 182,000 registered voters who may not be U.S. citizens.

    The state has since submitted a smaller list of more than 2,600 names to local election supervisors.

    But that list has come under fire for errors. Supervisors have loudly questioned the accuracy of the list, with one GOP supervisor going on Twitter to show the picture of a U.S. passport of one voter found on the list. Two Democratic members of Congress also recently held a news conference with a World War II veteran whose citizenship had been questioned.

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.