Senate panel schedules Tampa hearing on Fla’s new voter lawby John Kennedy | December 12th, 2011
Just days before Florida holds its first election under a voter law blasted by Democrats, a Senate panel announced Monday it will hold a hearing in Tampa to gauge public reaction to the new measure.
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson spearheaded the call for fellow Democratic Sen. Richard Durbin of Illinois to bring his Judiciary subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Rights to the state. The panel is scheduled to hold a hearing Jan. 27 in Tampa, four days before Florida’s Republican presidential primary.
Tampa’s Hillsborough County is among five Florida counties where voting law changes must be approved by the federal Justice Department because past racial conditions threatened voting rights. Nelson said, “The community has many diverse groups of voters that might be affected the most under Florida’s new law, like seniors, young voters and minorities. One recent and credible study says new laws like Florida’s could suppress millions of votes nationwide in the 2012 election.”
Democrats have pushed hard against voter laws approved in Florida and 13 other Republican-ruled states which they say are aimed at blunting Democratic turnout in next year’s presidential contest.
Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a member of Congress from Davie, earlier this month announced that the party has launched a new website www.protectingthevote.org aimed at informing voters of the new standards — and rallying support for having them overturned.
Florida’s law is already the subject of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and voting rights organizations.
Supporters of the state’s new law deny any partisan motivation, instead saying the stricter standards are merely intended to reduce the risk of voter-fraud.
The new measure reduces the number of days available for early voting, while also imposes tighter reporting standards for third-party groups that register voters. But a study earlier this year by the Brennan Center for Justice found that Florida’s law is part of a larger mosaic of stricter standards which could keep 5 million people nationwide from voting next year.