Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Will Justice Department Challenge Florida Election Law

The Florida Congressional delegation asked the Justice Department to investigate the new election law signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida Democrats Seek Investigation of Radical Elections Overhaul

Deutch Authors Letter to Department of Justice

(Boca Raton, FL) Today, the Democratic congressional delegation of Florida united to express their serious concerns over H.B. 1355, the radical and far-reaching overhaul of Floridians’ voting rights currently awaiting Governor Rick Scott’s signature. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-19), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-23), Kathy Castor (FL-11), Frederica Wilson (FL-17), Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) request an evaluation of the bill to determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Justice has the authority to review state law and block implementation if provisions are determined to disenfranchise voters.

“The role of government should never be to curtail the registration of newly eligible voters or hinder Americans from exercising the most fundamental democratic right afforded by our Constitution,” the delegation writes. “We are confident that any honest examination of this legislation will determine that it is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act.”

H.B. 1355 contains unprecedented restrictions of the voting rights of Floridians. It all but eradicates voter registration drives conducted by volunteer-based, third party groups like the League of Women Voters, the Boy Scouts of America, and the NAACP. The legislation will also force dozens of legitimate voters to cast provisional ballots by eliminating a decades-old law enabling Floridians with proper identification to update their names and addresses at the polls due to a military family move, marriage, or divorce. H.B. 1355 also slashes the early voting period from 14 days to 6, posing a special challenge to working Floridians and elderly voters who cannot wait on the long lines of Election Day. Additionally, the bill places new restrictions on the validity of absentee ballots, determining them illegal if signatures do not closely enough match those on older state documents.

Florida Sec. of State Kurt Browning submitted the the new law to the Justice Department for legal approval. The Justice Department has 60 days to review the new law. The ACLU has filed suit against the new election law. The question is what the Justice Department will do. The Civil Right division of the Justice Dept could get involved considering the ramifications the law would have on minority voters. Sen. Mike Bennett made it clear that the legislation was targeted at minorities.

“Do you read the stories about the peoiple in Africa? The people in the desert, who literally walk two and three hundred miles so they can have the oppotunity to do what we do, and we want to make it more convenient? How much more convenient do you want to make it?” he said. “Do we want to go to their house? Take the polling booth with us?”

“This is a hard-fought privilege,” he added. “This is something people die for. You want to make it convenient? The guy who died to give you that right, it was not convenient. Why would we make it any easier? I want ‘em to fight for it. I want ‘em to know what it’s like. I want them to go down there, and have to walk across town to go over and vote,” he said.

The ball is in Attorney General Eric Holder's court.

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