Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears to be intent on taking on the Obama administration in an election year showdown over voter rights that could end up playing a role in one of the nation’s key battleground states for both parties.
The governor last week rejected an order from the Justice Department to stop purging voters rolls of non-citizen voters, an effort that opponents say has resulted in legal voters being identified as ineligible in some instances. The Justice Department apparently agrees, charging the purge may be a violation of federal voting rights laws, according to Time magazine.
Some Florida Republicans told Time that Scott has have been emboldened by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s defeat of a recall effort last Tuesday and seems committed to putting up a similar tea party and conservative-backed fight over his effort to identify ineligible voters.
“Governor Walker’s big win has juiced up the conservative base in this country,” Florida Republican pollster Alex Patton told Time. “Governor Scott had to have gained some confidence from it.”
But there is an immediate problem Scott has to deal with before he can take on the Obama administration. Even though he has refused the Justice Department’s order to cease his purge effort, the state’s 67 county elections supervisor haven’t, according to Time.
Most of them, Democrats and Republicans, had already refused to participate in Scott’s effort, citing outdated and unreliable data produced by his administration to help counties identify illegal voters.
“We’re just not going to,” Leon County Democratic election supervisor Ion Sancho, told Time.
For its part, the Justice Department has warned Florida about violating the Voter Rights Act by using a purge process that hasn’t been approved as well as the National Voter Registration Act, which bans any voter roll modifications or work from being done 90 days before an election.
In response, Florida argues the department’s interpretation of the laws is simply wrong and says the government is obstructing the state’s efforts to identify illegal voters by not allowing access to the federal citizenship database.
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