MIAMI – A federal judge on Wednesday rebuffed the Department of Justice’s emergency request to stop Florida’s attempt to remove people who are not American citizens from its voter registration rolls.
Judge Robert L. Hinkle of United States District Court in Tallahassee said federal laws did not bar the state from identifying and removing ineligible voters from its rolls, though the Aug. 14 primary is less than 90 days away. The laws, Judge Hinkle said, are to block the removal of legitimate voters: people lawfully registered to vote before being eligible for removal, like felons or the deceased. They do not apply to people, like noncitizens, who never should have been on the rolls.
But Judge Hinkle, who delivered his ruling from the bench, chastised the state as having handled the matter cavalierly.
“Determining citizenship is not as easy as the state would have it,” Judge Hinkle said, according to The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel. “Questioning someone’s citizenship isn’t as trivial as the state would have it.”
Still, ineligible voters should not be allowed to vote, he said, because it can cause “irreparable harm” to legitimate voters.
Wednesday’s narrow ruling nonetheless lets the Justice Department lawsuit move forward.