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Voting Rights Act’

Activists urge Scott to drop voter roll review

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013 by John Kennedy

Voter rights organizations Tuesday urged Gov. Rick Scott to drop his latest attempt to remove noncitizens from Florida voter rolls, repeating their allegation that the database being used is flawed.

Scott in August ordered Secretary of State Ken Detzner to renew scrutiny of state voter rolls after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this summer overturned portions of the Voting Rights Act, freeing Florida and most southern states of federal oversight of their election laws.

Scott intends to use the U.S. Department of Homeland Security SAVE list — the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements — list to conduct the review. Many county election supervisors said they have concerns about the accuracy of the database, saying it may not accurately reflect the voting elibility of many recent immigrants.

The Advancement Project, Florida New Majority and several immigrant rights associations are urging supervisors to refuse the state’s push for a review. They say the state’s effort could add new burdens mostly to minorities forced to present documents proving their eligibility to vote.

“Once (voting rights) are earned, people should not have to re-earn it over and over again,” said Maria Rodriguez of the Florida Immigration Coalition, who said the review is politically motivated.

 

 

Justice Department to monitor elections in 23 states, including FL

Friday, November 2nd, 2012 by Dara Kam

The U.S. Department of Justice will send 780 federal observers and agency workers to 51 jurisdictions in 23 states, including Florida, to monitor and observer elections on Tuesday, DOJ announced in a press release today.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who was at the U.S. Attorney’s office in Tallahassee on Friday, is sending staff to Duval County, Hendry, Hillsborough, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange and Osceola counties on Election Day. DOJ is also monitoring Miami-Dade County elections during early voting, the agency announced today.

Hendry and Hillsborough are two of the five “preclearance” counties – along with Collier, Hardee and Monroe – that require federal approval of election law changes because of a history of discrimination against minorities.

“Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day,” DOJ said in the press release.

The federal observers and personnel will collect information about:
_ Whether voters are treated differently based on their race or language,
_ Whether elections offices are complying with minority or minority language provisions of the federal Voting Rights Act,
_ Whether elections offices provide assist to voters who are blind, disabled or can’t read,
_ Whether jurisdictions allow voters with disabilities to cast a private and independent ballot;
_ Whether jurisdictions comply with the voter registration list requirements of the National Voter Registration Act;
_ Whether jurisdictions comply with the provisional ballot requirements of the Help America Vote Act.

The department is sending workers who speak Spanish and a variety of Asian and Native American languages to the monitored areas.

Court rules against Democrats in congressional redistricting

Monday, April 30th, 2012 by John Kennedy

Florida Democrats were dealt another blow in redistricting Monday when a Leon Circuit Court judge denied their bid to have the 27-seat congressional plan declared invalid.

The ruling by Judge Terry Lewis comes after the Florida Supreme Court on Friday upheld the Republican-ruled Legislature’s map for redrawing Senate boundaries. Democrats and allied organizations also had sought to have the Senate plan ruled unconstitutional for favoring incumbent Republicans and hurting minority voters.

Earlier in the day Monday, the House also announced that the U.S. Justice Department had concluded its review of the House, Senate and congressional maps and determined that they complied with the Voting Rights Act. The preclearance determination is a key step in assuring that the redistricting plans will be in place for candidate qualifying, June 4-8.

Democrats did not immediately respond to the actions. But Republicans cast the federal approval as effectively the end of the redistricting fight.

“Today’s preclearance by the U.S. Department of Justice signifies the final approval of the state legislative and congressional maps passed by the Florida legislature,” said House Redistricting Chairman Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. “I appreciate the hard work of my colleagues and all of the input we received from Floridians throughout the process.  With their help, we were able to draw fair and compact maps that puts the interests of Floridians over the interests of politicians.”

Federal court says no to Scott administration on elections law rush-job, blames Florida for delay

Friday, October 28th, 2011 by Dara Kam

A federal court has turned down Gov. Rick Scott’s request for expedited review of four of Florida’s most contentious election law changes, blaming Scott’s administration itself for delays.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning asked the three-judge panel to decide whether the four election law changes violate the federal Voting Rights Act and earlier this month asked the panel to also rule on whether the act is unconstitutional and speed up its review. Browning said a decision is needed before the Florida’s early Jan. 31 presidential preference primary or the state could be in trouble for not having the same set of elections laws in all 67 counties. Five counties – Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe – require federal preclearance of voting rights laws. The rest of the counties have already implemented the changes, but the five counties cannot until federal officials or a federal court approves.

In a 12-page memo issued today, the judges chastised Florida for dragging out the process by side-stepping Department of Justice review. The court said Browning waited three weeks after Scott signed the law before sending it to the Justice Department for approval, removed four provisions of the law from the department’s review after 50 days and later asked the court to expedite its review.

“Thus, the present state of affairs is, at least to an extent, a matter of Florida’s own choosing,” judges wrote. “The Court is neither willing to rush to judgment on the complex statutory and constitutional issues raised in this case nor inclined to impose unreasonable litigation burdens upon the United States and Defendant-Intervenors simply because Florida chose to schedule its primary election early in the election season.”

Browning’s proposed schedule would have given the parties only 28 days to prepare for arguments and allowed the court just two to three weeks to hold hearings and draft an opinion, the judges wrote.

“The Court finds this extraordinarily abbreviated schedule to be unworkable,” they wrote.
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Browning sidesteps Obama admin, goes to federal court for approval of Florida election law

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by Dara Kam

Secretary of State Kurt Browning has asked a federal court to approve Florida’s new election law, sidestepping the U.S. Justice Department on the most controversial portions of the voting overhaul approved by the GOP-dominated legislature in May and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott.

Critics of the new law say it is designed to make registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult for minorities and low-income voters, who typically vote Democratic. The ACLU and other groups are currently challenging the new law in federal court in Miami. Scott, who re-appointed Browning, last week asked the judge in that case to remove him from the lawsuit. Jesse Jackson held rallies in Florida this week protesting the new law.

On Friday, Browning withdrew four portions of the law – including those currently being challenged in federal court – from the preclearance application. Federal approval is required for five Florida counties under the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

In a press release, Browning hinted that the state wouldn’t get a fair evaluation from the Democratic president’s administration.

“The purpose of filing in the federal district court is to ensure that the changes to Florida’s election law are judged on their merits by eliminating the risk of a ruling impacted by outside influence,” Browning said in the release. “Since the passage of HB 1355, we have seen misinformation surrounding the bill increase. By asking a court to rule on certain aspects of the bill, we are assured of a neutral evaluation based on the facts.”

Browning had the option of submitting the new law to the Justice Department, the usual method of getting new election laws approved, or a three-judge panel. He originally asked for federal preclearance from Justice officials in June.
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Florida seeks Justice Dept. preclearance for new elections law

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by John Kennedy

The U.S. Justice Department was asked by Florida officials Wednesday to approve the state’s sweeping new elections law for five counties that need such preclearance under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning submitted documents detailing law changes under CS/HB 1355, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law May 18 over opposition from legislative Democrats, the League of Women Voters, NAACP and other organizations.

Critics of the law said it is designed to blunt Democratic turnout and weaken voter registration efforts in advance of the 2012 elections.

 The ACLU of Florida, the national ACLU, and Project Vote, a Washington, D.C., voters’ rights organization, sued last week in Miami federal court to stop statewide implementation of the law until Justice Department approval is obtained.

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 has gone ahead and ordered the new law to take effect in Florida’s 62 other counties, a move which triggered the ACLU legal challenge.

State and federal law require the state to have uniform elections laws.

“It looks like Browning is now trying to speed-up the process in hopes of covering up the mistake he made by ordering the law to take effect,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida.

Browning has defended his action, saying the new measure was to take effect upon becoming law. He acknowledged that preclearance was needed before the measure could be enforced in the five counties.

The Justice Department has at least 60 days to review documents submitted Wednesday by Browning.

Critics of the new law say it is designed to make registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult for minorities and low-income voters, who typically vote Democratic. Scott and Republican legislative leaders said the new standards

The law imposes strict regulation of third-party registration groups, including requiring that they turn in registration forms within 48 hours after they are signed. It also reduces the number of days available for early voting in Florida, although county election supervisors are required to maintain the same, 98 hours made available before Election Day.

Llorente sues to stop elections rewrite still before Scott

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Marcelo Llorente filed suit Wednesday, seeking to stop the Republican-ruled Florida Legislature’s rewrite of elections law that Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign into law.

Llorente is seeking an injunction against Miami-Dade elections officials to stop the new elections measure (CS/HB 1335) from taking effect.

Llorente, a former Republican House member, maintains that a provision that would eliminate Sunday’s scheduled early voting in Miami — in advance of next week’s election – is unconstitutional.

State law, “cannot deny the right of the Miami-Dade County citizens to continue with a lawful and properly noticed election already under way,” Llorente said in his lawsuit filed in the county’s circuit court.

Llorente is among 11 candidates running for the post. But the legal challenge to the elections law comes even as Scott is mostly drawing heat from Democrats, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and a half-dozen members of Congress who want the Justice Department to block the elections law because they maintain it may interfere withe the federal Voting Rights Act.

Scott has until Saturday to act on the legislation. He told the Palm Beach Post on Wednesday that he was still making up his mind.

The governor also said he wouldn’t sign an elections bill he thought could hurt voters.

“I’m not going to sign a bill that discourages people from voting,” Scott said during a break in Wednesday’s hurricane conference in Fort Lauderdale. He added, “I want people to vote.”

ACLU asks Justice Department to investigate Florida clemency changes

Monday, April 25th, 2011 by Dara Kam

The ACLU has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to find out whether Florida’s new clemency process negatively impacts minority voting rights.

The new rules, pushed by Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi and adopted by the all-GOP Florida Cabinet on March 9, require felons to wait at least five years before they can ask to have their civil rights, including the right to vote, restored.

The change will affect more than a million Floridians, many of whom are minorities, who make up half of the state’s prison population, according to The Sentencing Project.

The ACLU wants DOJ to review the new rules the Voting Rights Act.

“The changes were nothing more than a highly targeted effort to prevent a group of people – mostly minorities – from gaining access to the ballot box,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida. “The changes, including the secretive and rushed process by which the rules were created, smack of raw politics and intentional, racially focused election manipulation – and it requires review by the Justice Department.”

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