Democrats, the ACLU, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and various voter registration groups are up in arms over a just-signed bill (CS/CS/HB 1355) that severely overhauls Florida’s election laws., in addition to making it legally tricky for groups to sign up would-be voters. It also shortens the early voting cycle to eight days (down from 14). Absentee voting remains unchanged.
Already, Nelson has officially requested that the Justice Department look into the matter.
Scott and the GOP Lawmakers – who control both the state’s House and the Senate – say the new law will eliminate voter fraud. That assertion is absurd, according to the bill’s many opponents.
Uncharacteristically, Scott did not release a statement to accompany the law’s signing, perhaps because the legislation will need to be reviwed at the federal level (by the Justice Dept., within 60 days) because five Florida counties are closely monitored due to the Voting Rights Act.
Already effected by the new law is Miami-Dade County. Elections officials there have had to cancel plans for early voting in next week’s county-wide mayor’s race. And The League of Women Voters has halted voter registration efforts out of fear of putting volunteers in legal jeopardy or face possible fines for simply signing up people eager to participate in elections.
The League, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, is looking at challenging the new law in court.
In a tersely worded statement released today, the ACLU’s Howard Simon described the new laws as “grotesquely un-American” and “astonishing voter suppression.”
“With just one bill, they made it harder to register to vote, harder to cast your vote, and harder to have your vote counted,” Simon was quoted as saying.
Such critics point out that the law is really designed to disenfranchise those who traditionally vote for Democrats, including African-Americans, other people of color and college students. Voters who end up trying to make an address change on Election Day – a common practice for those focused on their studies, and the poor who move frequently – would have several new hurdles to clear before their votes are counted. They must now prove that they exist to the satisfaction of the state.
Long-form birth certificates, anyone?
Volunteers who seek out new voters or those needing to change their registration will also now have additional paperwork to file. And if they don’t turn their forms in within 48 hours, they face a $50 fine. And that’s for each form. That could add up to a huge liability for someone turning in hundreds or even thousands of registration forms.
Fraud Is The Word
It’s all under the guise of battling voter fraud, which is real and measurable, according to Republicans, who site sometimes dramatic examples of fraud.
Deirdre Macnab of The League of Women Voters isn’t buying it. In an sharp critique of the law before it was signed, Macnab posted a lengthy blog entry, calling out state Republicans for using the voter fraud issue as justification for the new laws. Macnab, who represents an agency that has signed up voters in the state for more than 70 years, described the issue of voter fraud as a “red herring” meant to distract from what is really taking shape.
“Our own Secretary of State has reported that zero instances of fraud were reported to him during the most recent election cycle,” wrote Macnab, who also pointed out that the state has spent 10 years and $30 million dollars on a computer database that ensures election integrity. “We cannot and will not place our thousands of volunteers at risk … one late form could result in their facing financial and civil penalties.”
Republicans say the new laws will keep Mickey Mouse from voting, referring to an often cited example of someone trying to register Disney’s flagship character to vote (the form was submitted, but the mouse never actually made it into the system).
Macnab described the new requirements as, “so cumbersome that our volunteers would need to look for paid staffing and attorneys to decipher and keep track of the new red tape.”
Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), the bill’s sponsor, doesn’t agree.
“This is our effort to tighten up and provide an election process that is dependable, reliable and accurate,” said Representative Baxley. “Your vote is very important. We want to make sure that your vote is tabulated correctly and with the utmost integrity. Election Day is not a voter registration event, it is a voting event.”
Now we wait for the feds to weigh-in on this contentious new law freshly inked by Gov. Scott.
PAUL LUX: Florida’s new voting law and what it means I likened some of the changes in election law made by HB 1355 to a five-ring circus, and focused on issues that I felt voters needed to better understand: early voting, address changes on election day, third-party voter registration organizations, …
Elections Dominate: Florida Political Roundup On Thursday, Scott signed a controversial elections bill (HB 1355), which took effect immediately in all but five Florida counties that are subject to Department of Justice review based on their history of racial discrimination. …
Jessica Lowe-Minor: Why make it harder to vote? During the debate on HB 1355, Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, defended the measure, which will inarguably make it more difficult for eligible citizens to register and cast a ballot, by saying that our current system “coddles” voters. Sen. …
Controversial voter law may not affect Highlands HB 1355 shortens the time to 10 days before the election. Previously, early voting wasn’t allowed on Sunday; HB 1355 allows voting on one Sunday during that period. “Miami and those metro counties didn’t want to see the reduction,” Campbell said. …
Weekly Roundup: Elections Dominate On Thursday, Scott signed a controversial elections bill (HB 1355), which took effect immediately in all but five Florida counties that are subject to Department of Justice review based on their history of racial discrimination. …