Feds say they’ll look into FL elections law changesby Dara Kam | May 17th, 2011
The U.S. Department of Justice will “carefully consider” changes to Florida’s elections laws under a bill Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law this week.
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson complained to the feds before the bill was passed that the measure would impose severe restrictions on Floridians’ voting rights. Democrats are convinced the measure is aimed at suppressing Democratic votes in next year’s presidential election in the swing state considered crucial by both parties.
Nelson drew flak with his comments at the time likening the fight against the elections overhaul to the the years-long covert operation that culminated in the death of Osama bin Laden.
The bill (HB 1355) would force voters to cast provisional ballots if they change their address at the polling place, make it harder for third-party groups to register voters and shorten early voting days. Nelson asked U.S. Attorney Eric Holder’s office to investigate the elections changes. Five counties in Florida remain under federal scrutiny because of discrimination against minority voters decades ago.
“We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention,” Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote Nelson in a letter dated yesterday. “The Department of Justice will carefully consider the information you have provided in the course of our enforcement and administrative review work under the Voting Rights Act. If you have any more information you wish to share, the Department would be pleased to receive it from you.”
Florida’s Congressional Democrats also today asked the justice department’s civil rights division to check out the bill.
U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton and others wrote that the bill “seriously undermine the basic voting rights” of Floridians.
“We are confident that any honest examination of this legislation will determine that it is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act,” they wrote.
After the GOP-dominated legislature passed the measure, the League of Women Voters of Florida announced they would no longer conduct voter registration drives. The ACLU and others are expected to challenge the law in court if Scott signs it as expected. He has until May 21 to act on the bill.