A Florida election law passed by the Republican-led Legislature is drawing yet another legal challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union, State Sen. Arthenia Joyner and the National Council of La Raza say that that the Secretary of State is violating state law because five counties are following different election rules than the other 62. Last year, state legislators passed a law that curtailed early voting hours, imposed new restrictions on groups that register voters and made it harder for people to change their address on Election Day. The law was strongly opposed by Democrats and triggered a lawsuit by voter registration groups. The changes have never taken effect in five counties – including Hillsborough, Monroe and Collier – because the law it still under review by a federal court. Federal authorities must review any voting changes impacting those five counties because of past discrimination.
In the past, state election officials would delay changes for the entire state until federal authorities had approved them. But then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning directed 62 counties to go ahead and follow the new law. It does not appear that the federal court will make a final determination on the changes until after the Aug. 14 primary election. Now the ACLU and others want an administrative judge to order state election officials to rescind the policy. Their legal challenge contends the Department of State is exceeding its authority and violates a state law that requires a uniform set of election rules.
“Gov. (Rick) Scott’s insistence that the state go forward with two different sets of voting laws and procedures in different counties not only violates Florida law requiring uniform elections throughout the state, it is a recipe for chaos and another embarrassment for our state,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida in a statement. Chris Cate, a spokesman for current Secretary of State Ken Detzner, defended the state’s actions so far. He pointed out that Florida held a successful presidential preference primary under the dual sets of rules back in January.