At the Leon County Supervisor of Elections Office, volunteers sign up to work with the League of Women Voters. One of the group’s core missions is to help people participate in democracy by registering them to vote. On Wednesday, about 15 volunteers showed up to become voter registrars. One of them is Katie Pospyhalla, a college student majoring in Middle Eastern studies who said people her age don’t care enough. “And it’s something that I kind of hope to change. I kind of want to be like, ‘Wake up! These are your issues too and you need to get involved…nicely, of course,” she laughed. A battle is heating up over Florida voters, but it isn’t political candidates who are fighting. Voter registration groups claimed victory in court as a judge struck down parts of the state’s election law last week. And this week, the state stands defiant against a federal order to stop purging non-citizen voters. These fights over voting rights have pitted Florida Governor Rick Scott against the federal government and all 67 of the state’s supervisors of Elections.
Volunteers say they’re excited to be able to register voters for the first time since May of last year. That’s when the Republican-controlled Florida’s Legislature passed a bill requiring groups like the league to submit the names of every voter registered within two days, instead of the previously allowed 10 days. That and other new rules prompted the League of Women Voters and two similar groups to sue the state of Florida. Then last week, Federal Judge Robert Hinkle ruled in their favor and struck down the two-day requirement and others that he said placed unnecessary obstacles in front of would-be voters.
Another part of the 2011 law shortened early voting periods. That is still being challenged in a separate court case. “Fifty-two percent of all the African-American votes cast during the last presidential election were cast at these early voting locations,” said Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho. He says votes cast during early voting periods can significantly affect an election’s outcome.