A new state law that limits Florida’s early voting period and makes it more difficult for third-party organizations such as the NAACP and the League of Women Voters to register voters will be examined Friday at a special U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee hearing in Tampa. Concerned state and federal lawmakers and civic leaders say they want the session to be a mandate for reversal of some of the restrictive measures passed last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Among the bill’s controversial provisions are tougher voter-ID requirements that critics say discourage, if not disenfranchise, minorities, the elderly, the disabled and the homeless and new and young voters.
“We’re trying to keep the spotlight on voter suppression,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who called for the hearing. “I know people’s voting rights are being taken away,” Nelson said, referring to House Bill 1355 which shortened the early voting period from 14 days to 8.
The hearing will take place even as Floridians are making use of a shorter early voting period for the Jan. 31 Republican presidential primary and some countywide initiatives. Most of Florida’s 67 precincts opened for early voting on Saturday.