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Scott administration seeks dismissal of voter "purge" lawsuit



In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Gov. Rick Scott's administration wants a federal judge in Tampa to dismiss a lawsuit stemming from last year's controversial effort to scrub non-citizens from the state voter database.

Attorneys for Scott's chief elections official, Secretary of State Ken Detzner, have asked U.S. District Judge James Whittemore in Tampa to dismiss a suit filed by a Hispanic voter advocacy group, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, and two Tampa-area voters. At the crux of their lawsuit was the assertion that Detzner failed to obtain preclearance, or approval from the the federal government, before searching the voter file for potential non-citizens.

Five counties in Florida had been subject to the preclearance provision for decades, but the Supreme Court decision in Shelby County (Ala). v. Holder on June 25 invalidated the coverage formula used to preclear voting changes in Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe counties as well as in many other states and counties, mostly in the deep South.

Anticipating the action by the nation's highest court, the judge in February postponed further action in the case and ordered both sides to file a joint stipulation of dismissal within 20 days of the Shelby decision.

In seeking dismissal, one of Detzner's attorneys, J. Andrew Atkinson, said in a motion filed Wednesday that the pre-clearance provision was "the sole basis for this action," and that "plaintiffs cannot resuscitate this action even if Congress creates a new coverage formula and even if some jurisdiction in Florida were covered by it and subject to the preclearance requirement."

Judge Whittemore convened a teleconference with both sides in the case on Thursday, but when seven lawyers identified themselves to a clerk, he was heard saying, "This is not what I expected," and moments later the teleconference phone line went dead.


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