Stick a pin almost anywhere on a map of Florida and you’ll find a legal battle over who will be eligible to vote in the coming presidential election — and when, and how, and where. In a state crucial to Mitt Romney’s battle to replace President Obama, a law passed in 2011 by the Republican legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott (R) has created an awesome wake of litigation. The law imposes more than 75 changes, including restrictions on who can register voters and limits on the time allowed for early voting. Sponsors of the measure said it creates a more reliable system that combats voter fraud, while opponents, a group that included every Democratic lawmaker, called it a partisan ploy to suppress voters who traditionally favor Democrats. But unlike the frenzied trip to the U.S. Supreme Court that followed the close of voting in the 2000 presidential race, the Sunshine State’s legal battles are being waged in advance of the November vote.
“Florida is desperately trying not to be the next Florida,” said Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law whose new book, “The Voting Wars,” begins with a chapter titled “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Florida.” There could be many contenders for the title this fall. In battleground states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, changes in voting laws have resulted in high-stakes legal battles over whose ballots will be counted.