Senate approves elections overhaul, sends back to Houseby Dara Kam | May 5th, 2011
Civic groups like the Boy Scouts of America could find it harder to register voters under a sweeping elections bill (HB 1355) approved by the Senate and sent back to the House this afternoon.
The elections overhaul would, among other things, create tight restrictions on third-party voter organizations – such as the League of Women Voters, unions and the NAACP – and require them to hand over voter registration forms to elections supervisors within 48 hours or face $1,000 fines.
The bill would also shorten the number of days voters can cast their ballots early before Election Day.
Democrats argue the changes are aimed at suppressing Democratic voter turnout in 2012 because Democrats tend to use early voting more than Republicans and relied heavily on third-party groups to register voters in the 2008 presidential election.
“Maybe some people didn’t like the outcome of our last presidential election or the outcome of the ballot initiatives that have passed in recent years,” Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich of Weston said before the 25-13 vote. Republican Sens. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Paula Dockery of Lakeland joined Democrats in opposition.
Earlier today, union leaders urged Democrats to ask questions about the measure to lay the groundwork for lawsuits later this summer.
Democrats also complained that the changes would make it more difficult to voters to cast their ballots and have them counted.
But Sen. Mike Bennett, a Vietnam vet, said that maybe voting shouldn’t be so easy. He compared Floridians’ voting experiences with voters in new democracies in Africa who have to “walk 200 or 300 miles” to cast their ballots.
“How much more convenient do you want to make it? You want to go to the house? Take the polling booth with us?” Bennett, R-Bradenton, wanted to know. “For the guy who died to give you that right to vote it was not inconvenient…I wouldn’t have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who’s willing to walk 200 miles…This should not be easy.”