AG Holder Repeats Call for Automatic Voter Registration As He Tries to Block Fla. From Correcting Its Voter Rolls

By Susan Jones | June 12, 2012 | 10:41 AM EDT

( - "All eligible citizens can and should be automatically registered to vote," Attorney General Eric Holder told the League of Women Voters on Monday.

Holder -- repeating some of the same words he used in a December speech -- said the nation's "antiquated registration system" (in which states set their own rules) could easily be modernized:

"We should automatically register citizens to vote, by compiling – from relevant databases that already exist – a list of all eligible residents in each jurisdiction.   Of course, these lists would be used solely to administer elections – and would protect essential privacy rights."

Holder did not specify what "relevant databases" should be used to automatically register voters, but public policy groups have suggested using tax rolls and driver's license databases.

Holder's call for easing voter registration comes as the Obama administration is fighting Florida's attempt to remove non-citizens from its voter rolls.

Gov. Rick Scott's administration has compiled a list of 182,000 suspected non-citizens on the voter rolls. It wants to check those names against a federal immigration database maintained by the U.S. Homeland Security Department, but DHS is refusing to share the list.

On Monday, Florida sued Homeland Security in an attempt to force it to share its immigration database.

"I have a job to do to defend the right of legitimate voters," Florida Gov. Rick Scott told Fox News's Neil Cavuto on Monday. "We want to have fair honest elections in our state and so we have been put in the position we have to sue the federal government to get this information."

The Justice Department has warned Florida not to purge its voter rolls: "Please immediately cease this unlawful conduct," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez wrote in a letter to Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner on Monday.

The federal government argues that Florida's intended voter purge is illegal because it is happening too close to an election -- within 90 days of a primary; and because the Justice Department has not reviewed the method Florida is using to identify potentially ineligible voters.

Florida must get the Justice Department's approval for changes in voting procedures because five Florida counties are still covered by the Voting Rights Act, given their past history of discrimination.

According to the Associated Press, state records show 86 non-citizens have been removed from the voter rolls since April 11, and that more than half of them had voted in previous elections.

Yet on Monday, Holder told the League of Women Voters that "in-person voting fraud is uncommon."

In testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last week, Holder was asked why the Justice Department doesn't want states to remove ineligible voters from the rolls.

"Well, the problem with the Florida effort is that it runs counter to the National Voter Registration Act, which says you can't do this within 90 days of an election," Holder said.

He also said the DHS database requested by Florida will not necessarily help the state fix its voter rolls: “That database, as I -- understanding, which is a DHS database, does not contain on its rolls or within that database people who were born in the United States. That database will therefore be flawed and could result in the exclusion of people from voting who are native-born Americans."

Holder testified that he stands "with any state official, federal official who wants to make sure that our voting system is done in an appropriate way and that people who are not allowed to vote in fact do not vote." He indicated that he has a problem with the way Florida is going about its voter-roll fix:

"But as a result of the way in Florida has carried this out, I saw a report that a -- an election official in southern Florida indicated that about 450 people on the list that -- I think -- believe it was a woman -- that she were indicated to be people who were not eligible to vote who in fact were eligible to vote. And I think that points out the problem in the process that Florida has engaged in."