A judge on Wednesday rejected a request by federal authorities to block Florida’s contentious move to remove potentially ineligible voters from its rolls.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle said there was nothing in federal voting laws that prevent the state from identifying voters who may not be U.S. citizens even if it is close to the upcoming Aug. 14 election.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit earlier this month to halt the purge, saying it was going on too close to a federal election. U.S. officials also said the list used by Florida had “critical imperfections, which lead to errors that harm and confuse voters.”
Hinkle said federal laws are designed to block states from removing eligible voters close to an election.
He said they are not designed to block voters who should have never been allowed to cast ballots in the first place.
Although “questioning someone’s citizenship” is not a trivial matter, Hinkle also said noncitizens should not be allowed to vote.
“People need to know we are running an honest election,” Hinkle said.
Gov. Rick Scott, who first initiated the push to identify noncitizens on the voter rolls, praised Hinkle’s decision.
“The court made a common-sense decision consistent with what I’ve been saying all along: that irreparable harm will result if noncitizens are allowed to vote,” Scott said in a statement.
But during the court hearing, an attorney representing the state said Florida has voluntarily stopped pursuing a longer list of voters it has identified as potentially ineligible.
State officials already asked local election supervisors to check out the citizenship status of more than 2,600 voters. It also has a list of 182,000 voters it has not yet distributed.
A spokesman for Scott said the state will not distribute that longer list unless the state first can check the names against a federal immigration database.
Florida is suing to obtain access to that database after getting rebuffed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.