Arcia, et al. v. Detzner

In May 2012, the State of Florida required Florida elections supervisors to issue a letter to more than 2,600 residents—the vast majority of whom were Black and Latino—threatening to remove them from the voter rolls unless they provided proof of citizenship within 30 days.  In response, in June 2012, Advancement Project and co-counsel filed a lawsuit challenging Florida's action, alleging that the purges were discriminatory in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, and that the purges violated Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) which prohibits systemic list maintenance or purges within 90 days of any federal election.  Many of the affected individuals were indeed lawful citizens who were singled out by Florida based on an inherently flawed data-collection process.  Before the 2012 Election, on September 29, 2012, the parties settled the Section 2 discrimination claim.  Under the settlement, each voter who was wrongfully purged received a letter reinstating them, and they were guaranteed the right to vote a regular (not provisional) ballot. 

After that, the State began using a questionable federal immigration database known as SAVE to conduct voter list maintenance. Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction and summary judgment on the remaining NVRA claim. After a hearing on the motions, the Court ruled in favor of the defendants and denied both motions paving the way for the state to use the SAVE database.  Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s judgment to the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit.  On April 1, 2014, the Court of Appeals ruled that Florida's 2012 attempted purge using the SAVE federal immigration database violated the NVRA because it was carried out within 90 days of a federal election.   In reversing the district court, the Court of Appeals found that the "quiet period" provision of the NVRA prevents systemic purging of voters within 90 days of a federal election, even if the purpose is to remove alleged noncitizens from the voter rolls.  The Court also made important rulings regarding the standing of groups and individuals, including finding that individuals did not have to be actually prevented from voting to have standing.  It rejected the State's argument that the case was moot because it had stopped the purge, and then changed the method of purging after our initial complaint.  This was also the first known positive legal ruling regarding the SAVE database.  The Court of Appeals found that because the plaintiffs “were naturalized U.S. citizens, there was a realistic probability that they would be misidentified due to unintentional mistakes in the Secretary’s data-matching process.”

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