I recently spoke at the State of the County event hosted by the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. I likened some of the changes in election law made by HB 1355 to a five-ring circus, and focused on issues that I felt voters needed to better understand: early voting, address changes on election day, third-party voter registration organizations, the Presidential Preference Primary, and the full-text option for joint resolutions to amend the Florida Constitution.
After reading the Daily News’ May 17 editorial, “A fight over Florida voter rights,” I decided that voters really needed to hear a detailed explanation of what some of the changes made by HB 1355 mean to them, from the person who will be responsible for implementing those changes. Cue the calliope.
… As I write this, Gov. Rick Scott is expected to sign HB 1355 into law. But Sen. Bill Nelson already has asked the U.S. attorney general’s office to review it if it becomes law. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, several Florida counties are “pre-clearance” jurisdictions — meaning that election law changes that affect them (and every other county in turn) must first be approved by the Department of Justice. This mandatory review is to make sure that new legislation does not have the expressed purpose or potential of being discriminatory.
So the jury, as it were, is still out on HB 1355.
Do I agree with all of the changes made by HB 1355? Certainly not. Do I think that voter fraud is a widespread problem? Certainly not. Do I agree that “government should make it easy to register and to cast a ballot,” as your editorial asserted? Absolutely. But I also understand the reality that compromise is what makes our political system work.
I fought long and hard alongside my fellow supervisors against much of this bill. We won some issues, we lost some issues, and we had to compromise on some issues. Either way, the decision-making authority is not in our hands. I will continue to do everything I possibly can to make sure every eligible voter gets to register and vote, that every person who is not entitled to that privilege does not, and that elections in Okaloosa County continue to be run efficiently and fairly.
Paul Lux is Okaloosa County’s supervisor of elections.