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Feds and Florida duke it out over voter rolls dispute

2:55 PM, Jun 12, 2012   |    comments
Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith calls the state's lawsuit against the federal government a waste of money, while Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner insists he's just following the law to make sure voter rolls are accurate.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The lawsuits are flying over Florida's effort to remove ineligible voters from its voter registration rolls.

Florida and the federal government are pointing fingers at each other and claiming each is breaking the law.

Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to try to gain access to a federal citizenship database that he says could help the state identify ineligible voters.

At the same time, the U.S. Department of Justice is suing Florida to try to stop the state's voter purge effort. The DoJ claims Florida is breaking federal law by endangering citizens' rights to register to vote and maintain their registration.

Florida already put together a list of about 2,600 potential ineligible voters but it was filled with errors. Local supervisors of elections won't use it.

So Detzner wants to force Homeland Security to open up its database to improve the accuracy of that list.

Democrats accuse Gov. Rick Scott of leading the voter purge effort for political reasons.

"This is trying to gin up his base again, get the Tea Party excited. He's taking on the federal government. It's a states'-rights issue, all those kinds of things that he would need to do at a time when his popularity is such that he's a drag on the ticket for the Republicans. Frankly, if my numbers were like his, I'd want to reduce the number of people voting too," said Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith.

But Detzner says he's just doing his job and following the law to make sure voter lists are accurate and don't contain non-citizens.

"Voters expect people in government to act and the requirements of my office, the law of requiring me to keep voter registration lists clean, compelled me to move forward."

Democrats argue the effort is wasting taxpayers' cash and just creating jobs for lawyers. Smith says Gov. Scott is showing once again his focus is not in sync with what Floridians want.

"People want us to take on the serious problems of the time. They're worried about jobs. They're worried about better schools. This is an us-against-them issue when the reality is it's a very minor issue compared to what most people are worried about. Most people are really concerned about the things that he's not been good at and people are largely unconcerned with that which he seems to be willing to spend his time and their money for his political purposes or for his political agenda. They don't want that. That's not why they sent him up here."

Detzner dismisses any political agenda behind the voter purge effort.

"My job as secretary of state and chief elections officer is to follow the letter of the law and to make sure our voter lists are clean without any noncitizens voting in this fall's election. I've spoken to many people and every time I speak to them they tell me 'Please do not let my vote be neutralized by a noncitizen voting' and so that's my job. It's not a Republican job. It's not a Democrat job. It's the job of the secretary of state."

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