The U.S. Justice Department was asked by Florida officials Wednesday to approve the state’s sweeping new elections law for five counties that need such preclearance under the federal Voting Rights Act.
Secretary of State Kurt Browning submitted documents detailing law changes under CS/HB 1355, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law May 18 over opposition from legislative Democrats, the League of Women Voters, NAACP and other organizations.
Critics of the law said it is designed to blunt Democratic turnout and weaken voter registration efforts in advance of the 2012 elections.
The ACLU of Florida, the national ACLU, and Project Vote, a Washington, D.C., voters’ rights organization, sued last week in Miami federal court to stop statewide implementation of the law until Justice Department approval is obtained.
Browning had said earlier that he would not seek to enforce the state’s new standards in Hendry, Collier, Hardee, Hillsborough and Monroe counties until receiving Justice Department approval.
But he has gone ahead and ordered the new law to take effect in Florida’s 62 other counties, a move which triggered the ACLU legal challenge.
State and federal law require the state to have uniform elections laws.