Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kurt Browning Argues Voting Rights Act Unconstitutional

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning is challenging the Justice Department's oversight of the new voting law signed by Gov. Rick Scott. Browning filed a legal motion claiming the Justice Department does not have this right. Browning's legal argument is that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is unconstitutional.

According to Browning’s complaint (.pdf), “subjecting Florida counties and other jurisdictions covered exclusively under the language minority provisions of the [Voting Rights Act] to pre-clearance is not a rational, congruent, or proportional means of enforcing the Fourteenth and/or Fifteenth Amendments and violates the Tenth Amendment and Article IV of the U.S. Constitution.”

The Voting Rights Act was created to ensure that blacks aren't discriminated at the polls. Republicans have challenged the Voting Rights Act in the past with the 10th amendment states rights arguments. Florida Sen. Mike Bennett made this racially-tinged argument in support of the bill.

“Do you read the stories about the people in Africa? The people in the desert, who literally walk two and three hundred miles so they can have the opportunity 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.

Politifact ruled Bennett's statement that Africans have to walk "three hundred miles" to vote a pants on fire lie. It is hard not to read Bennett's statement and not find it racist.

The League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit because the new Florida voting law imposes fines on voter registration forms.

As the lawsuit puts it, "the challenged law imposes civil fines of $250 for each voter registration application submitted more than 10 days after it is collected, $500 for each application submitted after any voter registration deadline, and $5,000 for each application [that for whatever reason doesn't end up being] submitted. Plaintiffs are strictly liable for these fines, even if their inability to meet the statutory deadlines results from events beyond their control, such as the destruction of applications in a hurricane."

The League of Women Voters have been registering new voters in Florida for nearly a century. The new law has shut down the registration operation off the organization. The LWV registers many poor people. These are potential voters the Republicans see voting for Obama in 2012.

The new law makes it more difficult for people that move to update their voter registration. Meaning they are unlikely to vote. This will affect college students and people living in apartments. Browning has also cut the days of early voting from 14 days to 8 days. Historically, the less time the polls are opening are more likely to turn poor people away.

The tactics Browning is using is similar to what was used to restrict voting to blacks in the 60s. Florida's new voting law is exactly why the Voting Rights Act was created.

State of Florida Amended Complaint - No. 11-Cv-01428-CKK-MG-ESH1

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