Federal database which ACLU had warned was unreliable forces cancellation of effort to purge voter rolls; ACLU had previously sued state over purge

CONTACT:           ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363 – 2737 media@aclufl.org

MIAMI - Today, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner issued a memorandum to the state’s Supervisors of Elections stating that the state’s effort to resurrect a flawed voter purge would be halted until after the 2014 Election.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida had filed to lawsuit to stop the state’s purge effort in 2012, which saw legitimate voters receiving letters telling them they would be removed from the voter rolls. That lawsuit had to be dismissed following the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder which gutted a portion of the Voting Rights Act upon which that challenge depended. In the months since that dismissal, the ACLU of Florida and other voting rights groups have joined many county Supervisors of Elections in criticizing the effort for depending on an unreliable federal database and increasing the potential for legally-registered citizens to be denied their right to vote.

In the memo sent to Supervisors of Elections today, Secretary Detzner stated that a federal overhaul of the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program - a database not intended for checking voter eligibility but upon which the new purge would be based – would not be completed until 2015 and that the renewed purge would be postponed until after the completion of those changes.

Responding to today’s announcement, ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon said the following:

“As we’ve stated since our initial lawsuit challenging the voter purge, there was never any evidence that there was a problem that the purge would fix, but that the purge was simply another voter suppression tool justified by the ginned-up phantom of ‘voter fraud.’ It now appears that the very database that Secretary Detzner and Governor Scott pinned their hopes on and that we had warned was too unreliable to be used for elections is ultimately the voter purge’s undoing.

“At meeting after meeting of Secretary Detzner’s tour of the state in an attempt to generate support for the so-called ‘Project Integrity’ voter purge, many of the state’s Supervisors of Elections raised the same concerns that we shared about the purge effort, and chief among those concerns was its dependence on a flawed and unreliable federal database. We thank those county Supervisors of Elections who raised the alarm and spoke out against what was not in fact a project about ‘integrity,’ but a transparently political effort to suppress the vote.

“Restoring trust in our state’s elections requires more than paying lip-service to ‘integrity’ while at the same time creating new barriers for legitimate voters. It was irresponsible for Gov. Scott to undermine faith in our elections by creating fear that our voter rolls were filled with illegitimate voters when there was no evidence to suggest it. Today’s announcement confirms that the purge itself was the real threat to election integrity all along.

“Although the purge is dead for the 2014 election, we will remain vigilant against any other effort to make it harder for Floridians to vote and will continue to work to ensure that every legitimate voter still has a voice in our democracy.”

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