Nelson urges Scott to revamp elections law after teacher draws warningby John Kennedy | October 25th, 2011
Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson has sent a critical letter to Republican Gov. Rick Scott and plans to meet Wednesday with a Volusia County high school teacher whose student voter registration drive could violate Florida’s tough, new elections law.
The law is already being challenged in court by the ACLU and allied organizations. But Nelson is calling on Scott to push for revamping or repealing the measure following the case of Jill Cicciarelli, a New Smyrna Beach teacher and adviser to a local high school’s student government association.
Cicciarelli was registering students to vote since the beginning of the school year. But county Elections Supervisor Ann McFall said she was required to report Cicciarelli to the Florida Department of State apparently for violating the new standard for those acting as third-party registration organizations.
Florida’s new law imposes strict regulation of third-party registration groups, including requiring that they submit voter forms within 48 hours after they are signed. Formerly, such organizations had 10 days to submit forms. Either way, state officials said Cicciarelli appears to be in violation — although state elections officials say it’s unclear whether the teacher’s case will be referred to Attorney General Pam Bondi for further action.
Nelson, though, says the controversy points to flaws in the law — which critics say is designed to put hurdles before groups likely to assist minorities, students and other Democratic-leaning voters in advance of the 2012 elections. The League of Women Voters has already announced it has dropped third-party registration efforts.
“After this incident with the teacher, can anyone actually say we aren’t taking a step backwards in Florida when it comes to protecting one of our most fundamental rights?” Nelson asked in his letter to Scott. “I hope that you and every Floridian, regardless of political party, will stop and re-examine this controversial law.”