House Republicans rewrite elections lawby John Kennedy | April 21st, 2011
The Florida House approved a controversial overhaul of state election laws, a move Republicans said would blunt voter fraud and Democrats said was aimed at weakening the party and President Obama’s re-election bid in a critical toss-up state.
“This bill will bring uniformity and clarity to the election code,” said Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami. “It won’t stop a voters’ voice from being heard. But it will stop a voter’s voice from being heard twice.”
The measure was approved 79-37 in a party-line vote. Democrats had fiercely fought the legislation (CS/HB 1355) unsuccessfully proposing 40 amendments Wednesday night in an attempt to derail the bill.
Democrats said the measure was intended to damage key voter constituencies that helped power Obama to victory in Florida in 2008.
“This is nothing mpore than an anti-woman, anti-youth, anti-minority bill designed to skew elections in one direction,” said Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando.
The legislation (CS/HB 1355) would put tight restrictions on groups that register voters – making the League of Women Voters, unions, the NAACP and others submit lists of prospective new voters to elections supervisors within 48 hours, or face $1,000 fines.
The registration requirements, deadlines and even heavier financial penalties against so-called third-party registration organizations were approved by the GOP-led legislature in 2006.
But the measures were thrown out by a court, because they were considered overly punitive. The latest version modifies the penalties, and supporters think it will withstand any challenge.
In another controversial provision, the bill also would create new standards that critics warn could endanger ballots cast by voters away from their home counties – a move some see as designed to blunt the participation of Democratic-leaning college students in next year’s presidential contest.
“What problem are we fixing?” said Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth.
For petition gatherers involved in ballot measures, the bill reduces the length of time signatures are valid from four years to two years.