Lawsuit against Florida “Non-Citizen List” Falls Victim to Supreme Court Voting Rights Ruling

Friday, August 02, 2013

With the U.S. Supreme Court striking down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act (pdf), a legal challenge to Florida’s effort to keep “non-citizens” from voting has been dropped (pdf).


The nonprofit group Mi Familia Vota Education Fund filed a lawsuit against the Florida Division of Elections after it announced plans last year to create lists of “potential non-citizens” for election officials to use to determine their voting eligibility before Election Day.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) criticized the state effort, saying it amounted to a “purge” of eligible voters under the guise of preventing election fraud. Written notices had been sent out by the state to more than 2,000 people requiring them to prove their citizenship within 30 days, according to the ACLU.


The U.S. Department of Justice also spoke out against Florida’s voter purge, which targeted approximately 180,000 people, including many Latinos.


In its lawsuit, the Mi Familia Vota Education Fund alleged the state’s actions violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. However, a recent Supreme Court ruling (pdf) nullified that section of the landmark law. As a result, the plaintiffs gave up on their case.


That outcome is a “serious disappointment for all who care about the right to vote and fighting back against voter suppression in Florida,” ACLU of Florida executive director Howard Simon said in a statement. “The Supreme Court's decision to gut the Voting Rights Act has taken away one of the primary tools we have used to challenge efforts to undermine democracy by suppressing minority votes.”




Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner (R) announced that, in light of the case’s dismissal, he plans to resume the voter purge.


Voter suppression was rampant in Florida during the 2012 election. More than 50,000 people were unable to vote due to long precinct lines and arbitrary disqualifications. About 1,400 voters had their ballots thrown out by election officials due to claims that their signatures on the ballots didn’t match those on file.


Two former Republican leaders in Florida subsequently admitted that their party’s efforts to limit voter fraud were really about preventing Democrats from getting to the polls on Election Day. Indeed, about 60% of voters discouraged by the long precinct lines in Florida would have voted Democratic, according to Ohio State University professor Theodore Allen.

-Danny Biederman, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Voting Rights Act Ruling Dooms Florida Challenge (Courthouse News Service)

With Voting Rights Act Gutted, Florida Set To Resume Voter Purge (by Aviva Shen, ThinkProgress)

Justice Dept. Plans Challenge to TX State Voting Laws as FL Resumes Voter Purge (by Jacquellena Carrero, NBC News)

Order of Dismissal: Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, et al. v. Ken Detzner (U.S. District Court) (pdf)

Supreme Court Voting Rights Decision Simplified—A Republican Dream Come True (by David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

Limiting Voters in Florida…Long Lines and Signatures of Stroke Victims  (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)             

Federal Courts Versus Republican Efforts to Limit Voting: Florida (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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