MIAMI (CBSMiami) – It wouldn't be a presidential election year without some sort of voter shenanigans going on in Florida. The latest case is squaring off the Department of Justice against the state of Florida and the state of the Florida against the Department of Homeland Security.
Florida has primary elections scheduled for August 14th . The state is seeking to purge what it calls "non-citizens" from the voting rolls ahead of the primary and general election in November. The Justice Department said the state isn't following the law and ordered the state to stop the purge.
Monday, the Justice Department sued the state to stop the voting roll purge. Not long after that, Florida sued the Department of Homeland Security for access to an immigration database which state officials said would help the voter roll purge list be more accurate.
"We don't want anybody that a has a right, we want all U.S. Citizens to vote," said Governor Rick Scott. "We don't want non-U.S. citizens to vote."
Governor Scott took to the airways across much of cable television Tuesday morning to defend what he said is necessary to fight voter fraud.
"If there is critical evidence that somebody is registered to vote that's not they are sent a letter. They've got 30 days," said Governor Scott. "If they don't respond then there is a notice filed in the paper. If they don't respond they are taken off the rolls. But if they show up to vote, they get to vote provisionally and we get to make sure."
The competing lawsuits have left local elections supervisors in the untenable position of what to do as the state and federal governments fight in court. Miami-Dade County was heavily targeted by Governor Scott's list, with a total of 1,600 names given to the county to purge.
But, when Miami-Dade County officials found that a third of those on the list to be purged were citizens; the county elections office stopped the purge.
"That's what made us stop and say maybe this is not the most up to date information," said Christina White from the Miami-Dade Elections Office.
The actual instances of voter fraud are far from being a statewide crisis.
According to the Orlando Sentinel, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement reported a total of 178 cases of voter fraud sent to its department since 2000. Out of those cases, a total of 11 arrests have been made.
Attorney general Pam Bondi's office has three open cases dealing with voting in her office, but the cases deal with early registration violations due to a law that was recently overturned by a federal judge.
Most of the decline in voter fraud cases has been since a 2004 law requiring a signature from witnesses on absentee ballots was eliminated by the state legislature.
Part of the problem is the purge, according to critics, has unfairly targeted Hispanics and traditionally Democratic strongholds. CBS4 news partner the Miami Herald found that 58 percent of those identified in the rolls were Hispanics, despite Hispanics making up just 13 percent of the 11.3 million active registered voters in Florida. Whites and Republicans were the least-likely to face the threat of removal, the Herald found.
The purge is angering and confusing voters in the state. Many are placing the blame squarely on the Scott administration.
"I think this is the biggest threat that we have to our democratic way of life and that it has to be stopped," a central Florida voter said.
A fight over purged rolls isn't anything new to Florida. Thousands of eligible voters were removed from rolls in the months leading up to the 2000 election. During that purge, the voters were erroneously listed as felons, which prevented them from voting, according to National Public Radio. Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris headed up the 2000 voter roll purge.
In 2000, the voter purge, butterfly ballots, and a litany of other issues caused one of the longest, drawn out battles in the modern history of the presidency. In 2012, it could be a court battle over a potential voter purge that could make for a long election season in the Sunshine State.
for more features.