New lawsuit challenges Florida's voter purge

POTOMAC, MD - APRIL 03: A sign points voters to a polling place during the presidential primary election at Saints Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church April 3, 2012 in Potomac, Maryland. Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney hopes that primary elections in Maryland, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia will help secure his lead over rivals former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA). (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) Chip Somodevilla

Chip Somodevilla

Voter advocacy groups plan to file a lawsuit as early as Tuesday challenging Florida's effort to clean the voter rolls of non-citizens. The coalition said their suit is more expansive than the Department of Justice suit and could impact other states' potential efforts to clear voting lists.

The Advancement Project is one of four groups alleging the state of Florida is violating section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race and language. The groups say this lawsuit goes beyond the Department of Justice's lawsuit which challenges Florida's actions because it is taking place within 90 days of an election - a move Justice says is prohibited in the National Voter Registration Act. The latest suit, instead, says Florida's actions are illegal because of discrimination, regardless of how close or far an election is.

"This takes purging to a systematic level that is previously unseen," Penda Hair, co-director of the Advancement Project, said of Florida's efforts.

Hair said her suit, which is to be filed in the 7th Circuit Court in Miami, is based on the large number of Hispanic and African Americans impacted by the voter purge. The suit says 58 percent of people on Florida's list are Latino and 14 percent are African American.

"There's a pattern and that is voters of color are always disproportionally impacted by these schemes," Hair told Hotsheet.

Hair says her suit, which is seeking a preliminary injunction, is moving forward despite the Justice Department's lawsuit because she says the halting of Florida's voter purge in all but two counties is temporary.

Meanwhile, Florida is fighting back. The state is suing the Department of Homeland Security for not providing the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database to check the voter rolls, which the state says would be a more reliable database to ensure non-citizens are not registered. Instead, the state is using the Florida Department of Elections and Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles lists, which has been determined to have errors.

By trolling through the lists, Florida identified more than 2,600 potential non-citizens who then had 30 days to respond to a letter proving their citizenship. Forty names have been identified as non-citizens while 514 have proved their citizenship.

Meanwhile, the conservative group Judicial Watch and True the Vote filed suit against the state of Indiana on Friday for failing to maintain voter registration lists.

Tom Fitten, executive Director of Judicial Watch told Hotsheet that Indiana has "more people on the rolls than are eligible to vote."

"These leftist groups have been working hand in glove to inflate the voter roles," Fitton said. "Our goal is to get the rolls cleaned before the elections."

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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