“Voters won big in today’s ruling,” says League

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ruled that Florida’s plan to purge voters just before the 2012 elections was prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA).

“This is a big win for voters and a significant victory for good election administration practices,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters of the U.S. The League filed a “friend of the court” brief in the case.

Just before the 2012 primary and general elections in Florida, Secretary of State Ken Detzner began to purge voters from the rolls because a computer-matching system indicated they were not U.S. citizens. Karla Arcia, who is a citizen and who was incorrectly purged, sued, along with a number of organizations. They argued that the express provisions of the NVRA prohibit “any program the purpose of which is to systematically remove the names of ineligible voters from the official lists of eligible voters” within 90 days of an election. Today the Court agreed.

“Systematic computer purges are often wrong, so they shouldn’t come just before an election, when the voter can’t get it corrected,” said MacNamara. In the court case, the League and election administrators pointed out that good election management does not purge voters close to an election because mistakes cannot be fixed quickly. The Court emphasized that the decision does not prohibit a state from investigating potential non-citizens and removing them “on the basis of individualized information,” even within the 90-day window.

“Florida voters should be delighted by this news,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “There are already strong election administration practices in place to safeguard the lists.”

“This is a precedent-setting case that upholds a key protection for voters in the NVRA,” said MacNamara. “Inaccurate purges can be a big problem, and today the Court took an important step to protect voters,” she said. 

The League of Women Voters of the United States and the League of Women Voters of Florida were represented by the Brennan Center for Justice in this case.

Contact: Kelly Ceballos, 202-263-1331, kceballos@lwv.org

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The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.