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COLUMN

Florida's attempt to scrub the voter rolls is un-American

We give you five good reasons why you should care about the state's voter purge

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Threaten to curb someone's right to own a gun in the state of Florida and you're likely to provoke a war – you'll be threatened, castigated, called un-American. You'll have to pry that gun from its Second Amendment-invoking owner's cold, dead hands, and you'll have to battle with legions of lobbyists and outraged citizens who'd rather shoot you than let you violate their Constitutionally protected right to bear arms.

But threaten to take away someone's right to vote – a right that's at the very foundation of a democratic society – and what happens? Not much, judging from the recent attacks on voter's rights in Florida in which Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Ken Detzner have pushed to scrub voter rolls of alleged "non-citizens" who don't have the right to vote. By all accounts, their strategy is bizarrely flawed, has swept legally registered voters up in its net, and has been declared a violation of federal voting laws by the U.S. Department of Justice. Yet it continues.

Scott and Detzner's action threatens to undermine our right to have any control over our government at all – but for some reason, it's awfully quiet out there right now. There are no lobbyists swarming the Capitol and there aren't very many outraged citizens demanding a stop to this effort to pluck people off the voter rolls. A handful of progressive citizens groups – the usual suspects – are trying to drum up interest, outrage and support.

Where is everybody else on this?

"Well, that's a good question," says Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. "I don't know. I'm equally frustrated by that. Where is the outrage, to use what is now a trite phrase. I don't know. I'm sorry to say that Americans are too willing to wake up in the morning and read the newspaper and express their outrage to themselves over a cup of coffee and the morning paper."

It's not like nobody cares about the situation: the federal government is suing the state because the voter purge violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the state is suing the federal government so it can get more information to more efficiently purge the voter rolls; and the ACLU and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law are suing the state to prevent the purge from moving forward. But the civil rights organizations and government interests shouldn't be the only ones to care. You should care. We should care. Everyone should care – even if you don't live in the state of Florida. And here's why: The state's voter purge is not just a slimy strategy to win an election. It's an attempt to degrade our voting system, undermine our elections and suppress people's ability to vote – particularly people who are minorities, many of whom are undecided voters or vote for more liberal candidates. The voter purge is an assault on our freedom and our self-determination – and it's spreading.

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