To prevent major changes to the voting lists that could disenfranchise citizens by accidentally removing them close to Election Day, Congress included a provision in the 1993 National Voter Registration Act to prevent any purges during that time. The law, commonly know as the “Motor Voter Act” for its provisions allowing people to register to vote when they get their driver’s license, spelled out:The point being that people actually eligible to vote might be mistakenly (or intentionally) removed from the rolls closer than 90 days to an election and not have enough time to straighten out the situation.
A State shall complete, not later than 90 days prior to the date of a primary or general election for Federal office, any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters.
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In fact, the purge engineered by Gov. Rick Scott's team was undertaken just 55 days before the November 2012 elections. So egregious was this move and so filled was it with mistakes that critics had predicted that the state's 67 county election officials, including 30 Republicans would refuse to go along with it. And even if they hadn't, lawsuits finally thwarted the move.
The majority of 11th Circuit concluded Tuesday:
In closing, we emphasize that our interpretation of the 90 Day Provision [of the NRVA] does not in any way handcuff a state from using its resources to ensure that non-citizens are not listed in the voter rolls. The 90 Day Provision by its terms only applies to programs which “systematically” remove the names of ineligible voters. As a result, the 90 Day Provision would not bar a state from investigating potential non-citizens and removing them on the basis of individualized information, even within the 90-day window. All that the 90 Day Provision prohibits is a program whose purpose is to “systematically remove the names of ineligible voters” from the voter rolls within the last 90 days before a federal election.Just last week, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced that he was postponing another planned voter purge that would have cross-referenced a federal database—the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements—to determine whether a registered voter was actually a citizen. The move caught cheers from civil rights activists:
"Many concerns were raised by those who attended each stop of the Project Integrity tour regarding the accuracy of the SAVE database data as well as the lack of clarity around the many sources of that data," said Brad Ashwel' with the non-profit, non-partisan Common Cause Institute. "Unfortunately, many of these questions were never fully answered by the division and it still remains unclear as to how that database can be useful in determining voter eligibility when it can't even accurately verify whether or not individuals are citizens."
One little vindication and victory for the good guys in the war on voting.