Democracy in Action: Florida Set to Resume Voter Purge

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The U.S. District Court in Tampa dismissed a lawsuit filed last year to block Florida’s voter purge program. Two naturalized citizens and a Hispanic advocacy group collaborated on a lawsuit, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund v. Detzner, which claimed that Florida needed to obtain authorization from the federal government in order to remove the names of suspected non-U.S. citizens from the voter registry.

The court determined that the lawsuit was moot after the Supreme Court’s ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which invalidated Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act.  The Supreme Court’s decision eliminated the formula that allowed for the preclearance provision, which the federal government utilized to protect voters.

Florida’s voter purge uses a collection of driver’s licenses and voter registration files in order to create the initial list of voters who may not be citizens, which initially contained 180,000 names.  After comparison with more county records, Florida was able to compile a list of 2,600 registered voters who may not be citizens.  The state also has an agreement with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use the federal immigrant database in its voter purge efforts.

The obvious issue with Florida’s voter purge program is the unintended removal of suspected non-citizens who actually are citizens, such as Murat Limage and Pamela Gomez, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.  In an effort to prevent non-citizens from voting, which may only happen in a relatively small quantity, the state is setting itself up for more trouble if any legitimate citizens are prevented from voting at the polls because they were incorrectly removed from the registration lists.

The state says that it is looking for ‘suspected’ non-U.S. citizens in the voter registry, which leads one to wonder what basis is being used to develop such suspicions.  The most likely explanation is that Florida is unfairly targeting Hispanic voters  suspected of voting illegally.  It is completely unacceptable for the state government to use any racial or ethnic basis in order to purge voter lists, and the Supreme Court’s decision should not change the fact that Florida’s Hispanic community must be protected from any potential violations by the state.

Featured image courtesy of [Atomische * Tom Glebel via Flickr]

Sameer Aggarwal
Sameer Aggarwal was a founding member of Law Street Media and he is a graduate of The George Washington University. Contact Sameer at



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