(CBS/AP) TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A federal judge has refused to stop Florida from removing potentially non-U.S. citizens from its voter rolls.
The U.S. Department of Justice sued the state to halt the purge, arguing it was going on too close to a federal election.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said Wednesday that there was nothing in federal voting laws that prevent the state from identifying non-U.S. citizens even if it comes less than 90 days before the Aug. 14 election.
Hinkle ruled that federal laws are designed to block states from removing eligible voters close to an election. He said they are not designed to stop states from blocking voters who should have never been allowed to cast ballots in the first place.
Gov. Rick Scott praised Hinkle's decision, saying "irreparable harm will result if non-citizens are allowed to vote."
Florida identified an initial list of 2,600 potential non-citizens based on a cross-search of data from the Florida Department of Elections and the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Voters were to be notified by letter that they had been identified as potentially ineligible to vote, and had thirty days upon receipt of the letter to provide documentation of their citizenship or face removal from the polls.
But the database relies on some outdated driver's license information, and a number of the people on the list of possible non-citizens have since proven their citizenship, according to the state's election department. Opponents of the purge argue that the efforts disproportionately targeted Latinos and Democrats.
Despite the public sparring between the DOJ and Florida officials, most county election officialshad already opted not to continue with the process, which they are able to do given the guidelines of the state process. At least one county, however, said it was proceeding with the identification and purge of non-citizens.
© 2012 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.