Gov. Rick Scott (Andrew Innerarity/Reuters)
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle won't grant the U.S. Department of Justice's request to stop Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott's purge of registered voters.
Scott has a list of 180,000 voters he claims could be non-citizens that he intends to have removed from the voting rolls. The first set of some 2,500 voters Scott attempted to purge was overwhelmingly made up of Hispanic and Democratic voters, completely out of proportion with the actual make-up of Florida's voting population. Rick Scott is clearly trying to make sure Republicans prevail in November in his state.
The Department of Justice asked for a restraining order, arguing that the National Voter Registration Act precludes states from removing voters from the rolls in the 90-day period leading up to an election that includes federal candidates. Florida's primary is in August, so the purge clearly fell outside of that window. Judge Hinkle, however, disagrees with the Justice Department.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said that, according to his reading of the law, the 90-day provision did not apply to removing non-citizens from the rolls. But, he also chastised the state, saying there were “some problems” with the way that the program had been carried out.
“Determining citizenship is not as easy as the state would have it,” Hinkle said in a ruling from the bench made about a half hour after arguments concluded. “Questioning someone’s citizenship isn’t as trivial as the state would have it.”
While the statute
doesn't specify anything about non-citizens, the 90-day prohibition on purging voters (unless they die, move or are convicted of a felony in that period) is very clear. There will likely be further litigation on this point.
Meanwhile, with the elections supervisors in revolt, the purge isn't moving forward at the moment. But that could certainly change, unless a court steps in to stop it.