Rick Scott Broke Federal Law With His Botched 2012 "Voter Purge," Court Rules

A few months before the 2012 presidential election, Gov. Rick Scott sold a massive voter purge as a way to eliminate hundreds of "non-citizens" who were supposedly threatening democracy. Instead, the effort was a xenophobic joke. In Miami alone, hundreds of mostly Latino voters were forced to prove their citizenship just to be able to cast a ballot, including one man who'd earned a Bronze Star fighting in World War II's Battle of the Bulge.

Scott's real motivation was always baldly obvious: Suppressing Democratic turnout for the Obama-Romney race. And now a federal appeals court has agreed. In a stinging 32-page opinion, the three-judge panel says Scott broke federal law.

See also: New Voting Laws Could Take Out Barack Obama This Fall

The ruling by Atlanta's 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals leans on a federal law barring any "systemic" removal of voters within 90 days of a federal election.

The panel found 2-1 that that's exactly what Scott's administration did in 2012, with Judge Adalberto Jordan, a UM law school grad and Cuban immigrant, casting the deciding vote.

The purge, you might recall, was just the latest in a harebrained and legally dubious run of schemes by the Scott administration to try to help the GOP win Florida's crucial swing state electoral votes in 2012.

First, he chopped down on early voting days, which tend to help left-leaning, less affluent voters who have less work flexibility to vote on Election Day. Then he imposed onerous new rules on voter registration groups. He even eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day -- a day significant because for years it's been when traditionally black churches led their congregations to the polls.

The voting purge ended up being even more absurd. The effort was supposedly set in motion to remove thousands of illegal voters by comparing DMV databases with state voting rolls. More than 300 voters in Miami-Dade were ruled in ineligible.

Only problem was, the DMV's information was outdated and the vast majority were legal voters, like Karla Arcia and Melande Antoine, naturalized citizens from Nicaragua and Haiti respectively who ended up the lead plaintiffs on the federal challenge to Scott's purge.

The first court that heard their claim ruled in Scott's favor, but this morning's decision overturns that verdict. Scott's office released a statement that they "are reviewing the decision."

Here's the verdict:

Appeals Ruling

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink