Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Bill Nelson Asks For Hearings on Florida's Voting Laws

Sen. Bill Nelson is asking Congress to hold hearings on the new voting laws Florida and several other states have passed.

“No state should have the right to make a law if it abridges people’s basic rights,” said Nelson, who wants the hearings held in Florida and 13 other states that have enacted new voting laws.

The new laws would make it harder for people that have recently moved or charged their name due to marriage to vote. The law also hampers voter registration drives. The League of Women Voters no longer registers new voters in Florida.

At issue in the case, League of Women Voters v. Cobb (case no. 06-21265), was a punishing and tiered regime of deadlines and fines for groups engaged in non-partisan voter registration in the State of Florida. Under the law, (Fla. Laws 2005-277, Secs. 2 and 7), which went into effect on January 1, the government would have imposed a mandatory fine of $250 for each and every voter registration form submitted more than ten days after the form was collected from a prospective voter, $500 for each registration form submitted after the passing of a registration deadline, and $5000 for each registration form not submitted, for any reason.

Most chilling to plaintiffs’ activities was the law’s adoption of a “strict liability” legal standard, meaning that no extenuating circumstance -- not even destruction of an office by a hurricane – would have excused the failure to submit a registration form within the law’s deadlines.

The new voting laws hit a snag with the Federal District in the District of Columbia. At issue is the new voting laws must be reviewed by the Justice Department. Gov. Rick Scott and Republicans in the Florida legislature put the voting changes into effect January 1st, before the Justice Department had a chance to review. The Florida Republican establishment wanted to avoid a Justice Department review. This is in defiance of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

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