Nelson uses bin Laden operation to slam GOP elections overhaulby Dara Kam | May 2nd, 2011
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson used the years-long covert operation that culminated last night in the death of the country’s No. 1 enemy to slam a GOP-backed elections overhaul the Senate is slated to vote on today.
“We have cut off the head of the snake,” said Nelson, joined in the Capitol by a host of fellow Democrats, voters rights groups and civil rights advocates at a previously-scheduled press conference about the elections package.
After congratulating President Barack Obama and the White House administration for killing Osama bin Laden, Nelson paralleled the fight for democracy overseas to Democrats’ fight against the elections package.
“Now in an effort of 10 years, ever since Sept. 11, 2001, protecting our democracy, protecting us from those that would do harm and who provide this protection because our democracy is unique, we find ourselves gathered in our Capitol city of this state again here to protect our democracy,” he said. “Now we are here for another reason of protecting our democracy and that is to keep the right to vote. Don’t make it harder to vote. Don’t make it harder to register to vote and don’t make it harder to try to count your vote. And that’s what we have in front of the legislature right now.”
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, the bill’s sponsor, file a 154-page strike-all amendment bringing his plan (SB 2086) more in line with the House proposal (HB 1355), already approved by a partisan vote. Democrats object Republicans crafted both bills to suppress voter turnout in the 2012 election.
Among the most contentious components of the bills are rigorous new standards on third-party voter registration groups that helped drive Democratic turnout in 2008.
Swing state Florida, and the 29 electoral votes it will have in 2012, is considered by many a must-win for President Obama next year, intensifying the partisan divide over the bill’s changes to early voting, third-party registrations and provisional ballots.
The measure would force voters who have moved from one county to another to cast a provisional ballot on election day if they have not already changed their voter registration.
Nelson said that could have a chilling impact on the very men and women who helped bring bin Laden down.
“What about the armed services member overseas whose name has been changed because they got married?” Nelson said, adding that 55 percent of provisional ballots cast in the 2008 presidential election were not counted. “This is a personal attack on the people of Florida.”
Former Attorney General Bob Butterworth also used the national news to drum up opposition to the elections revamp.
“When you take so many nations on the globe, this planet Earth and compare them to the us, the big difference is that we respect the rule of law,” Butterworth, a Democrat, said.
Butterworth predicted the bill would be challenged in court if it becomes law and may not pass the U.S. Department of Justice pre-clearance requirements.