It's probably just a happy coincidence. Last week, Gov. Rick Scott's administration announced it was giving up on plans to purge the voter rolls before the November election, citing federal computer issues. This week, a federal appeals court ruled the governor's badly flawed 2012 purge effort violated federal law, and it sent a clear signal it did not want to see that happen again. The court ruling should prevent the governor from reconsidering the decision to abandon the purge, and it is a victory for Florida voters.
Scott's dogged pursuit of a sweeping purge of the voter rolls reflected Republican efforts nationwide to make it harder for low-income and minority voters to participate in elections. No one endorses allowing noncitizens to vote, and county elections supervisors have a duty to maintain accurate voter rolls. But there was no evidence of sweeping voter fraud involving noncitizens in Florida. Demanding a statewide purge of the rolls did not even address issues involving mail ballots, which have been used in fraud cases.
A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta called the governor's 2012 effort "far from perfect" and found it violated federal law by occurring too close to the election. State elections officials used error-filled lists of suspect voters using driver's license records that included 180,000 or so names that disproportionately included Hispanics and other minorities. Then the list was cut to 2,600. Then 198. The state turned to a federal database normally used for other functions and local elections officials revolted. About 85 voters ultimately were removed from the rolls, yet Scott was trying again this year until the state decided changes to the federal database would make it too difficult. This week's appeals court opinion should be the final word, and Florida should focus on voter turnout rather than voter suppression.