Florida Voting Changes Won't be Rushed Through Courts
Around the State
Florida officials are moving forward with their planned defense of the state’s new voting laws now that a federal court in the District of Columbia has rejected the state’s request to speed up the review process.
“We are disappointed that the court couldn’t accommodate our proposed schedule, but our goal has always been to ensure a fair and objective hearing,” Chris Cate, a spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning, stated in a release.
“We look forward to making the case that Florida’s new election laws aren’t discriminatory.”
Browning had asked a three-judge federal court panel on Oct. 11 to expedite its review of four election law changes approved by lawmakers last spring. On Friday, the panel refused the request.
A reason for the state’s request was to avoid the potential for five Florida counties -- Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe -- to be operating under laws different from the rest of the state in the Jan. 31 primary.
State law requires the voting law to be uniform and state officials are still awaiting a federal ruling on implementing the changes in those five counties as required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
The ACLU of Florida quickly hailed Friday’s decision. The organization has labeled the voting changes the “Voter Suppression Act.”
“The court was right to say this is a mess created by the governor and the Legislature. In denying their request for a ‘drive-by hearing,’ the court essentially said that the state’s failure to take this issue seriously until recently is no one’s fault but their own,” Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, stated in a release.
The ACLU noted an expedited schedule would not give groups challenging the changes time to present their case.
The legislative changes reduced early voting from 14 days to eight, will require third parties signing up voters to register with the state and submit each application within 48 hours of the card being signed, and for people who need to change their address on the day of the election to fill out provisional ballots.
Critics of the changes say the aim of the new rules is to suppress Democratic votes in next year’s presidential election. Proponents of the change said the intent was to ensure the accuracy of voter rolls and make early voting more accessible.
On Tuesday, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., asked Gov. Rick Scott to reconsider the voting changes signed in May.
Nelson’s request came a week after U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore tossed a lawsuit by the ACLU of Florida over the voting changes, declaring that the civil liberties outfit lacked the standing to sue.
The group had accused Browning of implementing the changes without the required federal approval required by the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
Under changes to the Voting Rights Act approved by Congress in 1972, the preclearance is required for jurisdictions in which, at the time, less than 50 percent of the voting-age citizens were registered to vote or voted in the presidential election, had a non-English-speaking population of more than 5 percent, and provided voting materials only in English.
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