(HUFFINGTON POST) Florida election officials responded late Wednesday to a Department of Justice warning to quit purging suspected non-citizens from state voter rolls with an unapologetic explanation and no agreement to stop.

The letter Florida sent to the Justice Department met a deadline set by the federal government late last month, but will likely trigger an extended legal battle between the state and federal governments and advocacy organizations. Florida’s response cited a medley of laws governing voting and used language strikingly similar to that of conservative advocacy groups claiming widespread voter fraud threatens the integrity of national elections.

If the U.S. blocks the purge, the federal government may be in violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause, Florida told the Justice Department. Non-citizen votes would dilute the votes of citizens, the letter claimed. “Presumably eligible voters in Florida have the right to bring a lawsuit in federal court to test whether their votes are being unconstitutionally denied by the federal government,” if the purge isn’t allowed, Secretary of State Ken Detzner wrote in the letter.

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