June 8, 2012 | Commentary on Legal Issues
My NRO article yesterday dealt with the Justice Department’s unjustified request that Florida stop removing non-citizens from the state’s voter rolls. There was a new development after the column was published: Florida secretary of state Ken Detzner sent a letter to DOJ Wednesday afternoon refusing DOJ’s directive. The enclosures included with the letter, e-mails between Florida and the Department of Homeland Security, make it clear that the Department of Homeland Security is violating federal law. DHS has refused to comply with Florida’s request first made in September 2011 to provide citizenship information on registered Florida voters. DHS is required by 8 U.S.C. §1373 to “respond to an inquiry by a . . . State, or local government agency, seeking to verify or ascertain the citizenship or immigration status of any individual . . . by providing the requested verification or status information.”
Detzner’s letter also confirms that the Florida statute under which this verification process is being conducted was “duly precleared by the Department of Justice.” So DOJ’s claim that Florida is violating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because it did not get preapproval from Justice turns out to be a complete fabrication.
Detzner is appropriately caustic when he says that the practice that DOJ appears to be endorsing is as follows:
The federal Department of Homeland Security may, for months, violate federal law and deny Florida and other states access to the SAVE database so that the federal Department of Justice may then assert that the resulting delays in a state’s election-integrity efforts violate the time periods establish in another federal law. This hardly seems like an approach earnestly designed to protect the integrity of elections and to ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted.
As Detzner correctly notes, he has “a solemn obligation to ensure the integrity of elections in” Florida and “permitting ineligible, non-citizen voters to cast ballots undermines that mission and erodes the justified faith the electorate has in the fairness and reliability of the electoral process.”
Too bad DOJ does not recognize that same solemn obligation.
Hans von Spakovsky serves as senior legal fellow in The Heritage Foundation’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
This article first appeared on National Review Online.