By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Following this year’s U.S. Supreme Court Ruling striking down a part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, a federal judge in Tampa threw out a challenge this week from voting rights groups to the state’s controversial voter purge.
Last year, Gov. Rick Scott ordered state officials to began review and remove a large number of voters from the state’s voter rolls that office suspected might be fraudulent.
The list of voters under question, at the time, got a lot of scrutiny because it contained legitimate voters who faced losing their voting rights close to the 2012 presidential election. The list also contained a larger share of minority voters than white voters.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law eventually filed a lawsuit against the state on behalf of a Latino voting rights group and two U.S. citizens in an effort to halt the law. The group alleged that the state of Florida was unconstitutionally removing voting rights from minority voters in the state.
The court on Wednesday cited the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Shelby County v. Holder, which dismantled the part of the federal Voting Rights Act that required that state actions receive federal approval or preclearnace.
The ACLU of Florida director Howard Simon said the decision is further proof that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling “has taken away one of the primary tools we have used to challenge efforts to undermine democracy by suppressing minority votes.”
The ACLU wrote in a press release responding to the court decision that there are “serious concerns about the accuracy and discriminatory targeting of Florida’s voter roll purge arose based on an analysis revealing that 61 percent of those on the purge list are Hispanic while only 14 percent of registered Florida voters are Hispanic.”
The groups also wrote that in a June 11th 2012 letter sent to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner from the U.S. Department of Justice “criticized the state’s purge effort warning it has ‘critical imperfections which lead to errors that harm and confuse eligible voters.'”
The Associated Press reports that this court decision opens the door for the voter purge to begin again in Florida.
According to the AP,
Also on Wednesday, the U.S. District Court in Tampa lifted a five-month old stay that had prevented Florida from sending any new names of potential non-U.S. citizens to county election officials.
Secretary of State Ken Detzner said in court filings the state plans to resume removal of voters even though the validity of previous state lists has been questioned.
Al Sharpton said this week that he will focus on fighting the state’s self defense law called ‘Stand Your Ground,’ as well as voter suppression. He said “this state is going to be ground zero in this [upcoming] election.”