Florida's Election Laws Challenged

By: Matt Galka; Associated Press; Troy Kinsey Email
By: Matt Galka; Associated Press; Troy Kinsey Email

Tallahassee, Florida- August 10, 2012

In a state with a history of controversial elections, it's a controversial new chapter.

One written by Florida's GOP legislature and governor, with the goal of cracking down on voter fraud.

Under new reforms, early voting days are being cut in half and voters who change their addresses at the polls won't be allowed to cast a binding ballot.

"There is no suppressing any voter. We may be suppressing some canvassing boards, but we might have to serve them a little bit more chicken and yellow rice," said Republican Rep. Seth McKeel.

But the law's been put on hold in five counties, at least until the federal government declares it doesn't discriminate against minorities.

For that reason, Tampa Democratic State Senator Arthenia Joyner, along with the ACLU, are asking a Tallahassee judge to put the law on hold statewide.

"They're moving ahead, calling it a uniform system of elections. You can call it whatever you want, but when there's one set of rules on one side of the Tampa Bay bridge and another on the other side, you know, that is not uniform," said Howard Simon of the Florida ACLU.

Coming as it does just a few months before the general election, the implications of the legal fight to invalidate the election law statewide could be tremendous. Potentially altering the outcome of every race, from the local level to the marquee presidential contest. That's because more people would be allowed to cast binding ballots.
Higher turnout historically benefits democrats.

But Governor Scott, a republican, says the reforms, just like his attempted purge of non-citizen voters, are all about fairness.

"If they show up to vote, they get to vote provisionally, and then we make sure," said Governor Scott.

That's how it works *now*, but come the fall the rules behind florida's high-stakes election may look a lot different.

The judge in the case says he plans to issue a ruling on August 24th.
Hillsborough and Sarasota are two of the five counties where the federal government has ordered the election reforms not to go into effect.

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Tallahassee, Florida- August 10, 2012

The Florida Division of Administrative Hearings heard arguments from both sides regarding the uniformity of the state's election laws.

Right now 62 counties in the state follow an eight day early voting period. Five other counties follow a 12 day early voting period.

"The secretary of the state strongly disagrees with the petitioners allegations because the statements here do nothing more than reiterate the requirements of existing state and federal laws," said Daniel Nordby, the attorney representing the secretary of state, as he addressed the judge.

"The petitioners specifically challenge the actions of the secretary to create a non-uniform system for the administration of Florida's election laws," said Mark Herron, representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

The first section of Florida Statute 97.012 says that the state must "obtain and maintain uniformity in the interpretation and implementation of the election laws."

Members of the ACLU want Judge Thomas Crapps to void a directive by the secretary of state calling for enforcement of two sections of a new election law. The law reduces the number of early voting days and requires voters that change out-of-county addresses at the polls to cast provisional ballots

"You can call it uniform but when there are certain laws on one side of the bridge in Tampa and certain laws on the other side of the bridge, it's not uniform," said ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon.

The judge said that he will make his ruling on the case August 24th.
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- A state administrative law judge says he'll rule Aug. 24 on a challenge to the simultaneous use of two conflicting Florida election laws.

Judge Thomas Crapps heard argument in the case Friday in Tallahassee.

The American Civil Liberties Union and state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, want Crapps to void a secretary of state's directive calling for enforcement of two sections of a new election law in 62 of Florida's 67 counties.

They cannot be applied to the other five counties unless approved by a federal court in Washington, D.C. because they are covered by the Voting Rights Act. Until then those counties are following an old law.

The challenged provisions reduce early voting days and require that voters changing out-of-county addresses at the polls cast provisional ballots.


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