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Latinos Targeted by FL Voter Purge, Lawsuits Say

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By Deanne Katz, Esq. on June 22, 2012 6:59 AM

Advocacy groups are claiming voter discrimination in Florida's push to remove noncitizens from voting records. The state is facing lawsuits from both the federal government and voter advocacy groups for its attempt to remove noncitizens from its voting registration records.

Florida isn't under fire for ensuring that noncitizens don't vote. It's the method they're employing that is raising eyebrows.

Voting is a privilege reserved for citizens but the process of determining who is eligible to vote should treat individuals equally. Targeting racial groups as potentially not eligible is a form of discrimination although proof is complicated.

It's difficult to find answers in questions of voter regulation legitimacy because often the facts of the individual case are important.

This week, voter advocacy groups sued Florida, claiming that the purge disproportionately targets Latino voters. The majority of voters on the list are Latino while they comprise less than 14% of the state's total population, according to Tampa Bay Times.

An earlier lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice claims that the state is in violation of the National Voter Registration Act because the purge is within 90 days of a federal election.

Florida's primary election is scheduled for August 14.The push to remove noncitizen voters began last year, according to an article in the Palm Beach Post.

Florida has filed its own lawsuit about the voter purge, targeting the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS's refusal to provide citizenship data in Florida's effort to purge noncitizen voters is the reason for the complications, claims Brian Burgess, a spokesman for Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The state had identified several cases of noncitizens voting in Florida which spurred this effort, according to Burgess in a statement published by Businessweek.

Voter opinion on the purge is hard to gauge. A poll from June 8 indicated that a majority of Florida voters oppose the measure to remove some people from the voter rolls as reported by Businessweek. But a more recent poll published June 20 indicates that a majority of Floridians support the measure.

Claims that Florida's effort is poorly disguised voter discrimination are certainly not helping Gov. Scott's reelection campaign. The same polls published June 20 and reported by the Sun Sentinel show 49% of questioned voters don't like his policies. It's unclear whether voters included this policy in their response.

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