TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A judge on Wednesday rejected a request by federal authorities to block Florida's contentious move to remove potentially ineligible voters from its rolls.
The decision could prompt some counties to revive efforts to identify registered voters who are not U.S. citizens. Many counties had suspended the effort after hearing about conflicting legal opinions.
U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled there was nothing in federal voting laws that prevent the state from identifying ineligible voters 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 federal voting laws barred the effort since it was within 90 days of 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 in ruling from the bench 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 he said "questioning someone's citizenship" is not a trivial matter, Hinkle also said that non-citizens should not be allowed to vote.
"People need to know we are running an honest election," said Hinkle, who was appointed by former President Bill Clinton.
A U.S. Department of Justice official said that the department would review the written decision when it was issued and declined to say whether federal authorities planned to appeal the ruling.
Ron Labasky, the legal adviser for the association that represents county election supervisors, sent out a memo late Wednesday telling supervisors if they have "sufficient documentation" that a person is not a U.S. citizen they can now remove them from the voting rolls.
Judge refuses to block Florida voter purge