This is the third separate lawsuit challenging the state regarding the controversial purge of non-citizens. The purge has effectively been stopped in most counties in Florida, as supervisors of elections wait to get clear guidance about using a more accurate database (Collier and Lee counties, however, continue to pull voters off the rolls).
The ACLU, in conjunction with the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, has previously announced their own lawsuit regarding the purge. So has the Department of Justice. But the lawsuits are flowing both ways, as Governor Scott is suing the Department of Homeland Security, claiming they have held out unlawfully in providing a thorough database that could help the state fairly remove non-citizens from the voting rolls.
Filing suit today were Veyeyo,the Florida Immigrant Coalition, the National Congress for Puerto Rican Rights, Florida New Majority and 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East - Florida.
The groups claim the voting purge violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in voting, as well as violating the National Voter Registration Act.
Ben Hovland is with the Fair Elections Legal Network. He said "clearly there are problems with this list," referring to the number of U.S. citizens in Florida who have been contacted erroneously by their local supervisors of elections offices informing them that they needed to contact the offices directly and prove that they are citizens, otherwise they would be knocked off the voting rolls.
Specifically, Hovland mentioned the 1,572 voters contacted in Miami-Dade County's original purge. Of those contacted, 562 responded. Of those 562, 98 percent said they were lawful citizens and voters.
"Florida has an ugly history of illegally removing eligible voters in election years," said Catherine M. Flanagan, director of the Election Administration Program with Project Vote.
Flanagan says that the sheer fact that 87 percent of those on the purge list are either Latino or black demonstrates that the state is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act, which prohibits states from conducting a process that removes ineligible voters within 90 days of a federal election.
"Congress included this prohibition for a reason," she said. "So that erroneous and flawed purges like this one won't eliminate eligible voters just before an election, leaving them without the time and opportunity to correct a mistake and get back on the roll."
Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel with LatinoJustice PRLDEF, says it's clear to his group there is an obvious and disparate impact of the purge list, particularly in the black and Latino communities, which he calls "devastating."
"This is being done clearly with the knowledge of the election officials in Florida," Cartegena charged.
Maria Rodriguez, executive director of Florida Immigrant Coalition, another plaintiff listed on the lawsuit, summarized the sentiment of all who are participating in the lawsuit.
"We don't think this is about preventing fraud," she said. "We think this is about preventing voting."