An effort by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) to purge up to 182,000 names from his state's voter registration rolls has sparked a civil rights outcry and a federal lawsuit from the Department of Justice.
Scott has rejected a federal order to stop the purge, insisting that the effort will remove non-citizens and ineligible voters from the rolls. But the effort is having sinister effects on the state's black, Latino and immigrant residents, whose names dominate those on the purge list. Nearly 60 percent of the names on Scott's purge list are Latino, even though only 13 percent of the state's overall population is Hispanic. And state lists of "suspected" ineligible voters have proven wildly inaccurate -- one such list of 3,000 names included 500 citizens. Voting rights activists say that Scott's tactics are similar to the voter intimidation policies of the Jim Crow south.
Though President Barack Obama's administration is taking action against the move, it has not yet invoked the Voting Rights Act of 1965. That landmark piece of civil rights legislation barred states from engaging in practices that marginalize minorities or minimize the effects of their votes. The Voting Rights Act has been used, for instance, to block state redistricting plans that redraw congressional districts so as to minimize the number of members of Congress representing people of color.
Instead, the Obama Justice Department has invoked the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which only permits such voter purges three months prior to an election. Since the Florida primary is in mid-August, the DOJ argues that any purge should have halted in mid-May.
Meanwhile, Latino and immigrant communities in Florida increasingly feel as though they are under attack, with residents concerned about sophisticated misinformation campaigns designed to suppress their votes.
But Scott hasn't backed down, sparking one of the highest-profile standoffs between a southern state and the federal government since the 1960s. What does the purge say about race and politics in the United States? How much have things really changed since the days of Jim Crow voter suppression laws? How will the legal battle in Florida be decided? Will the DOJ prevent Scott from carrying out the purge? Can the Republican Party afford to alienate minority voters? Does the purge have repercussions for electoral politics beyond Florida? Will it galvanize get-out-the-vote efforts from civil rights organizations?
Join us at 4 p.m. EDT on Monday, June 18th for a live discussion on the Florida voter purge. Until then, let us know your thoughts on the issue in the comments section.