As Republican primary voters go to the polls today, there is a cloud over the state’s voting process. Florida law imposes undue burdens on African-American, Hispanic and younger voters, according to witnesses at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in Tampa on Friday. The testimony adds to the mounting evidence that the election law changes Florida Republicans passed last spring to ostensibly address voter fraud — a nonexistent problem in this state — are designed to interfere with the voting rights of Democratic-leaning constituencies.
Six of the seven witnesses that testified at the Senate subcommittee field hearing on protecting the right to vote in Florida said that the new election law is making it harder for Floridians to register to vote and cast a regular ballot. Early voting has been reduced from 14 days to eight and is barred on the Sunday before Election Day; penalties and fines are imposed for third-party groups that fail to submit completed voter registration forms within 48 hours; and voters who moved to another county are required to cast a provisional ballot rather than change their address at the polls.
At the hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights that was requested by Sen. Bill Nelson, more evidence emerged that these restrictions fall disproportionately hard on minority groups. This is important since a three-judge federal panel in Washington is reviewing the new Florida law for violations of the Voting Rights Act. Five counties — Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe — with a history of voter discrimination must “preclear” any changes to voting procedures before they go into effect. (Because of this, today’s election is being held under two sets of rules, one for those five counties and one for everywhere else.
Full Article: Florida’s voting fairness problem – Tampa Bay Times.