Department of Justice Could Be Practicing ‘Guilt by Existence’ in Florida Voter Purge Case, Attorney Says
(CNSNews.com) – The Department of Justice may be engaged in a politically motivated attack on the state of Florida over efforts there to purge thousands of people who may be ineligible to vote from the state’s voter rolls.
“I don’t think there’s any question that in the Civil Rights Division there’s a mindset of guilt by existence. It’s phenomenal,” conservative attorney Joe diGenova told CNSNews.com. “If you exist and you’re in that jurisdiction and you happen to be of one party, that’s it.”
The Civil Rights Division is the branch of the Justice Department responsible for enforcing voting-rights laws and is the division behind a recent cease-and-desist letter sent to the state of Florida over efforts there to purge some 2,600 possible ineligible voters from the rolls.
The effort, begun in May, seeks to remove any non-citizens who have been erroneously added to Florida’s voter rolls. In order to do this, Florida is comparing names and addresses on its voter rolls to information on file with the state highway and motor vehicle department, which contains citizenship information.
Florida has also formally requested access to the Department of Homeland Security’s immigration information database to further help weed out non-citizens.
However, on May 31, the Department of Justice sent a cease-and-desist letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner arguing that Florida’s efforts violated federal law.
Justice argued that Florida had violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act because the efforts had not been approved by the Justice Department, which has special jurisdiction over five Florida counties due to those counties having racially motivated elections problems decades in the past.
The government also alleged that Florida had broken another federal law – the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) – that stipulated that any efforts to clean up voter rolls conclude 90 days before any federal election. Florida is set to host a primary election Aug. 14.
Dezner’s office has not responded to DOJ’s allegation, saying only in a June 1 press release that there is no evidence of wrongdoing on Florida’s part and that no person has been denied their right to vote.
“No one that has the right to vote has been denied the opportunity to cast a vote, and as the Secretary, it is my duty to ensure that remains the case,” he said.
Mr. diGenova said that this has been the case in every one of the Justice Department’s voting enforcement cases, calling the government’s actions a “preemptive strike” against states.
“I’m not sure what this is aimed at, other than some imagined threat against the voting rights of minorities,” he said. “I’ve not seen a single piece of evidence, real evidence. This appears to be a preemptive strike to stop people from cleaning their [voter] rolls up, and it just doesn’t make any sense.”
DiGenova, a long-time Washington, D.C.-based lawyer, told CNSNews.com that the department’s Civil Rights Division had become the “resting place” for liberal civil rights activists who think that “everybody’s wrong.”
“The Civil Rights Division has become the resting place for extremely activist individuals in the civil rights community who spend their lives doing nothing else but this and are very active politically to boot when they’re not in the government,” he said.
“So they have no perspective and everybody’s wrong. They have this image that if anything happens in any area that there’s supposed to be special scrutiny by the Justice Department, they immediately think the worst. And there’s just no evidence that the worst or anything like it is occurring.”
Instead, diGenova said Florida has taken “rational, reasonable steps” to clean up its voter rolls by merely asking local officials to verify if any of the 2,600 possible non-citizens are in fact eligible to vote. Those on the state’s list were sent certified letters giving them 30 days to prove they were in fact eligible to vote.
DiGenova said the government’s efforts should be “embarrassing” for the Justice Department, given the lack of evidence of discrimination, but added that “these folks in the Civil Rights Division are never embarrassed.”
“There’s practically nothing they do that embarrasses themselves, it’s remarkable,” he said. “I think it’s not a good thing for the department.”