House Democrats ask Justice Dept. to reject new elections lawby John Kennedy | June 21st, 2011
House Democratic leaders Tuesday asked the U.S. Justice Department to deny Secretary of State Kurt Browning’s request for approval of the state’s new elections law, which the Legislature’s ruling Republicans said is aimed at blunting the threat of voter fraud but which Democrats say is intended to discourage poor and minority voters from going to the polls.
Reps. Ron Saunders of Key West and Perry Thurston of Plantation cited the legislation’s (CS/HB 1355) shortening of the number of days available for early voting, penalties that could be imposed on voter registration groups, and new restrictions on changing voter registration at the polls as grounds for the Justice Department to reject the state’s request for needed preclearance in five counties under the federal Voting Rights Act.
The ACLU of Florida, the national ACLU, and Project Vote, a Washington, D.C., voters’ rights organization, sued earlier this mont in Miami federal court to stop statewide implementation of the law until Justice Department approval is obtained for the five counties.
Browning had said earlier that he would not seek to enforce the state’s new standards in Hendry, Collier, Hardee, Hillsborough and Monroe counties until receiving Justice Department approval.
But he ordered the new law to take effect in Florida’s 62 other counties, a move that triggered the ACLU legal challenge, which cited state and federal laws that require the state to have uniform elections laws.
In their letter to federal officials, Saunders and Thurston wrote, “The law has the purpose or effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or language minority group.”