(CNN) –– Florida election officials will have access to a federal law enforcement database to challenge the eligibility of a person to vote as part of its effort to purge non-citizens from its voting rolls, state officials said.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security will allow state officials access to the SAVE - Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements - database in an agreement that was announced Saturday by Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner and the Florida Department of State.
The announcement follows weeks of legal wrangling between the federal and state officials, a fight being closely watched in Colorado, Nevada, Michigan and North Carolina - states that could ultimately swing November's presidential election - where officials are advocating for similar access.
This morning on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) explains that the move will ensure that only American citizens are offered the right to vote.
"Their database will allow us to make sure that in future elections, you know, non-U.S. citizens aren't going to vote," Gov. Scott says. "I'm really very appreciative the federal government is cooperating with this, and it will allow us to go through a logical process to make sure non-citizens aren't voting."
"The right on vote is a sacred right," Gov. Scott adds. "We have to make sure U.S. citizens' right on vote is not diluted."
In response to the Justice Department's threat to sue the state of Florida over its move to purge names from its voter lists, Gov. Rick Scott says "we don't have a choice but to sue them to get the database we're entitled to, to make sure that U.S. citizens votes are not diluted."
Florida, a key voting state in the presidential elections later this year, is in the spotlight for spearheading the removal of names from voter registration lists. Under Republican governor Rick Scott, the state has sought to remove names of non-citizens from voter registration lists using information compiled by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
The Department of Justice issued a letter Monday indicating the Federal government will initiate legal action against the state of Florida for a program the Federal government views as in conflict with voting rights laws.
The letter written by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez says in part, "One of Congress's concerns in enacting the protections of the VRA and NVRA, and one of the Department's concerns in enforcing federal law as enacted by Congress, is ensuring that state efforts to find and purge ineligible persons from voter registration lists do not endanger the ability of eligible U.S. citizens to register to vote and maintain their voter registration status...Because the State has indicated its unwillingness to comply with these requirements, I have authorized the initiation of an enforcement action against Florida in federal court."
The "voter purge" movement has been criticized as a targeted effort to reduce the amount of minority voters in the November election—voters who tend to swing left. Meanwhile, proponents of the movement to eliminate ineligible voters from the lists say the so-called purge protects eligible voters.
Florida Governor Rick Scott talks with Christine Romans on "Starting Point" today about the voter purge, and the Assistant Attorney General's move to take the state of Florida to federal court. He responds to the criticism, saying "This is not a partisan issue. This is not a Republican, Democrat or Independent issue."
See more clips from the interview below.
There's a growing battle between Florida leaders and Department of Justice over that state's controversial effort to purge voters.
Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner is giving the DOJ its own deadline: Monday. He wants DOJ to explain why it claims it's illegal for voters to remove non-citizens from the voting rolls. In a statement, Detzner claims the state has the right to remove non-citizen voters to "ensure the right to vote is protected and not diluted by the votes of ineligible persons."
Attorney General Eric Holder argued his side in a hearing yesterday, saying Florida's efforts "counter to the National Voter Registration Act which says you can't do within 90 days of an election."
Detzner talks with Soledad this morning, and in an extensive conversation explains that it's critical for the state of Florida to have accurate voting.
The Justice Department has set a Wednesday deadline for Florida officials to respond to a letter about the state's controversial voter purge. Federal officials wrote that it appears the state might be in violation of federal voter protection laws.
The purge was put in place after Florida's Republican governor, Rick Scott, asked the state to identify non-U.S. citizens who had registered to vote illegally. Officials, so far, have identified about 2,600 voters as suspicious using information from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. What's still unclear is how many of those identified are unable to vote.
Rep. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), one of the key opponents of the purge, talks with Soledad about the Justice Department's inquiry, and explains how this could disenfranchise thousands of voters in the presidential election.