Black Dems trying to change Sunday pre-election voting restrictionby Dara Kam | March 2nd, 2012
Sen. Chris Smith will try to change Florida’s election law to re-open early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, one of the controversial provisions included in the state’s disputed election law passed last year.
Smith and other black lawmakers interrupts a “souls to the polls” movement instituted a decade ago when Florida began early voting. As many of 30 percent of black voters in some communities cast their ballots after attending church on Sunday, Smith, R-Fort Lauderdale, said.
“Last year’s law forbid us from doing that,” Smith told reporters, including a CNN crew, Friday morning. He said he plans to introduce an amendment that would allow but not require elections supervisors to hold the Sunday voting again on the floor this morning but has not heard from Senate GOP leaders whether they will sign off on the change to the elections bill (SB 1596).
The sweeping election reform passed last year – now being challenged in court – was aimed at reducing election fraud, Republican lawmakers insist.
But Smith said that does not explain the ban on Sunday voting.
“If fraud is going to happen, it is not suddenly going to happen on that Sunday,” he said.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a lawyer and civil rights activist, said she believes the law was intentionally designed to make it harder for blacks to vote in the general election this year to keep President Obama from being reelected after minority voters and college students helped sweep Obama into the White House four years ago. Florida is one of more than a dozen states that passed restrictive elections laws last year.
“It’s my feeling it was done deliberately, a premeditated design, to suppress the vote of African Americans in this country because it’s playing out all over the nation in every state. It was intentional,” Joyner, D-Tampa, said.
A Tallahassee federal judge this week held a hearing in a lawsuit filed against the state by voting rights groups challenging the state’s new laws regarding third-party voter registration. The new law caused the League of Women Voters to stop registering voters for the first time in decades.