The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan group with a distinguished history. It was founded in 1920, just months before the U.S. Constitution was amended giving women the right to vote. The Florida chapter of the League was founded two decades later and since the beginning, has worked to educate and register new voters.
But now, the group says, a new law makes it impossible for it to carry out one of its core missions: Registering new voters. The law passed by Florida’s legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott over the objections of the League and other groups, tightens voting regulations in several areas. Among the changes: it reduces the time period groups have to turn in new voter registrations from 10 days to just two. For forms turned in late, there are steep fines and other possible civil penalties.
Some of the law’s provisions tighten restrictions and possible penalties for groups that conduct voter registration drives. Republicans in state government — who support the law — say the league is overreacting.
But Deirdre McNabb, president of the League’s Florida chapter, says the new law places unreasonable requirements on volunteers just trying to do their civic duty.
“And now, you have to go down to the supervisor’s office, fill out a raft of paperwork; take an oath of office,” she says. “And you could be liable for civil charges by the attorney general in the event that you get some voter registration form back on an untimely basis.”
The League of Women Voters and other groups have gone to court to challenge provisions of Florida’s law — which they say violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
Critics say restrictions on voter registration drives unfairly target minorities. They point to statistics that show African-Americans and Hispanics are more twice as likely as whites to register through new voter drives.
They say the law also harms minority participation in another way — by cutting — from 14 to 8 — the days allocated for early voting. Although hours are extended each day, McNabb says the changes reduce the opportunities to vote before election day. In 2008, more than half of black voters in Florida used early voting.
“In essence, our government, certainly here in Florida, is passing laws and spending our taxpayer money to disenfranchise people who should be eligible to vote,” McNabb says.
Full Article: Florida Law Tightens Voting Rules, Angers Advocates : NPR.