Florida announced Wednesday afternoon it would ignore the Department of Justice's demands to stop its controversial voter purge, but a state election supervisor threw another twist into the story, telling MSNBC's Al Sharpton soon afterwards that he and his colleagues won't play along.
Ion Sancho, Leon County's supervisor of elections, told the PoliticsNation host that Republican Gov. Rick Scott can "do all he wants of this partisan endeavor" but that Sancho would not participate in a process he sees as illegal, adding that he spoke for a good number of his fellow supervisors.
The majority of us "will not conduct any illegal activity," Sancho told Sharpton. "We're going to ensure our voters are protected."
Sancho said that the purge would not be successfully executed without the cooperation of supervisors like himself.
"We are the hands, legs, head, feet and eyes of this process," said Sancho. "...I was independently elected by the voters of my county and I work for them."
Scott has come up with a list of 180,000 voters who his administration says are ineligible to cast ballots in the battleground state. But the purge seems to have snared many legitimate voters.The Justice Department last week told the state to stop the effort, saying the purge violated the National Voter Registration Act, which says voter roll maintenance must stop 90 days before an election.
Fellow supervisor, Ann McFall in Volusia County, later told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow that she too would not participate in the purge, citing federal law.
"I just hope it isn't some sort of partisan posturing," the Republican said when asked why the purge was happening. "But I'm afraid that's what it's turning out to be."
Florida's Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced Wednesday that the state would defy the Department of Justice's demands, insisting that DoJ's order to stop "hardly seems like an approach designed to protect the integrity of elections and ensure that eligible voters have their votes counted."
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, an advocate of voting rights, blasted Detzner's decision to push the purge.
"The state’s planned purge, so close to the election, opens the door to errors, confusion, and the removal of eligible voters,” said Wendy Weiser, director of the Democracy Program. “The Department of Justice was correct in raising a concern about this process. The Sunshine State cannot continue to operate its election process in darkness.”
Michael Hardy, general counsel for civil rights non-profit National Action Network, told Sharpton the election supervisors' defiance could mean trouble for Scott.
"The governor is going to have a very difficult time pushing this, said Hardy. "The facts of this are not in his favor."