Florida: Browning on election bill provisions: “bad public policy” | Palm Beach Post

Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning called a provision included in the Senate’s election package yesterday allowing the secretary of state to dock election supervisors pay and essentially put them on probation “bad public policy.” Browning served more than two decades as the Pasco County supervisor of elections before going to work for Gov. Charlie Crist as secretary of state in 2006. Browning stepped down from the post for the second time last year and was elected Pasco County schools superintendent in November. Browning was in the Capitol on Wednesday for school superintendents’ meeting with his one-time boss, Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida: Former Florida elections chief on West-Murphy: ‘How do you get away with doing a partial recount?’ | Palm Beach Post

Former Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning, a three-decade veteran of Florida elections, says he understands why Republican U.S. Rep. Allen West would be “a little steamed” by Sunday’s disputed partial recount of early votes in St. Lucie County. A recount wasn’t required by state law because Democrat Patrick Murphy’s margin was larger than 0.5 percent. But St. Lucie County elections officials acknowledged problems with the way electronic memory cartridges of early votes were uploaded on election night and scheduled an emergency canvassing board meeting Sunday to recount all 37,379 early votes for all the races on the ballot.

Florida: State releases obsolete list of possible noncitizen voters | Miami Herald

It took weeks and weeks, but the state of Florida on Thursday finally released a list of 180,506 voters whose citizenship is in question, based on a cross-check of a database of Florida drivers. But state officials called the list “obsolete” and said they would not use it to “purge” anyone from the right to vote this fall — leaving open the possibility that some noncitizens could cast ballots. The list includes voters’ names, dates of birth, and their nine-digit voter ID numbers. Information on voters’ race, party affiliation home address was not included, and the state said that data was not part of the information the state used to create the list. An initial review by the Times/Herald showed that people with Hispanic surnames have a strong presence on the list, including 4,969 people with the first name of Jose; 2,832 named Rodriguez; 1,958 named Perez and 1,915 named Hernandez.

Voting Blogs: Florida Secretary of State Voter Purge Netted 10 “Potential Noncitizens” who may have Voted | electionsmith

That’s right. 10. Out of 11.2 million voters on the official statewide rolls as of April 1, 2012. Here’s some quick analysis… Approximately 0.000088496% of the current statewide voter roll may have voted illegally once (or perhaps more) over the past decade or so. The percentage is even less when you consider the tens of MILLIONS of votes cast in local and statewide elections in Florida since 2006. Notwithstanding the hundreds of Florida citizens who have been falsely accused by the Florida Secretary of State as being “potential noncitizens” who are corrupting the integrity of our voting system, it’s great to see that Governor Scott has exposed the myth of voter fraud in Florida. Or not.

Florida: Florida election law draws new legal challenge | MiamiHerald.com

A Florida election law passed by the Republican-led Legislature is drawing yet another legal challenge. The American Civil Liberties Union, State Sen. Arthenia Joyner and the National Council of La Raza say that that the Secretary of State is violating state law because five counties are following different election rules than the other 62. Last year, state legislators passed a law that curtailed early voting hours, imposed new restrictions on groups that register voters and made it harder for people to change their address on Election Day. The law was strongly opposed by Democrats and triggered a lawsuit by voter registration groups. The changes have never taken effect in five counties – including Hillsborough, Monroe and Collier – because the law it still under review by a federal court. Federal authorities must review any voting changes impacting those five counties because of past discrimination.

Florida: Voter purge explained | The Washington Post

Laws designed to clamp down on voter fraud have been causing controversy all over the country. But in Florida, an attempt sparked by Gov. Rick Scott (R) to remove non-citizens from the voter rolls has become particularly heated, devolving into dueling lawsuits, with officials refusing to carry out directives from the secretary of state. The Department of Justice is suing the state over the purge. Florida is suing the Department of Homeland Security. What happened? As the Miami Herald reported, Scott became interested in the number of non-citizen voters early in his tenure. The state wanted to use the Department of Homeland Security‘s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database, but federal officials denied access. Instead, the state elections board relied on the information from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to determine citizenship. Then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning abandoned the effort, saying the data was too flawed. (For example, some people gain citizenship after getting a driver’s license. Some names on the list were simply there by mistake.)

Florida: Noncitizen voter purge grew from 5-minute conversation | McClatchy

Florida’s latest elections controversy began in the smallest of ways: a five-minute chat a year ago between Gov. Rick Scott and his top election official. At the time, about February 2011, the newly elected governor was touring the office run by then-Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who put on a presentation about Florida’s voting rolls and elections issues for the political newcomer. That’s when Scott — a Republican who campaigned as an immigration hardliner — asked a simple question: How do we know everyone on the rolls is a U.S. citizen? “I said it was an honor system,” Browning recalls. “That’s how it’s always been done.” “People don’t always tell the truth,” Browning recalled Scott saying. So Browning decided to find out how many noncitizens were actually on the rolls.

Florida: Voter Purge In Limbo As County Officials Await State Response To DOJ | TPM

An association of Florida elections supervisors has recommended that members hold off on purging voter rolls until the state settles its dispute with the Justice Department over whether the action is legal. Based “upon the previous issues that have been presented concerning the list, as well as the fact that the Department has indicated its intent to take further actions to review its list to determine its validity,” Ron Labasky of Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections wrote in a memo that his recommendation was that Supervisors of Elections “cease any further action until the issues were raised by the Department of Justice are resolved between the parties or by a Court.” DOJ asked Florida to say by Wednesday whether they would cease trying to purge their voter list. Justice Department officials contended that federal law doesn’t allow voters to be removed from the polls within 90 days of an election and that changes to the process Florida uses to remove voters must be cleared under the Voting Rights Act.

Voting Blogs: Florida’s Voter Purge … and The Federalist Papers | Ned Foley/Election Law Blog

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary.”  So said Madison famously, in Federalist 51.  He continued with a more significant observation: “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.”  Underlying this observation was his recognition that political science could not count on politicians always acting virtuously. Yet Madison also knew that if politicians lacked virtue altogether, democracy (or what he would have called “republicanism”) would be impossible.  Here’s how he put this important counterpoint in Federalist 55:

“Were the pictures which have been drawn by the political jealousy of some among us, faithful likenesses of the human character, the inference would be that there is not sufficient virtue among men for self-government; and nothing less than the chains of despotism can restrain them from destroying and devouring one another.”

Thus, Madison saw the challenge of successful constitutional design for a democracy as economizing upon an existent but finite supply of virtue among otherwise self-interested politicians.  To this end, he gave us the architectural principles of federalism and separation of powers.  “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition”—so that no single institution of government, even in a democracy, can exercise too much power over the lives of the citizenry. Yet, as I read recent news reports of efforts in Florida to purge the state’s voter rolls of noncitizens, I wonder if Madison’s principles of constitutional design are adequate to the task of election administration in the twenty-first century.  Or perhaps the better question is whether the current institutional arrangements we use in the United States for election administration are adequately in accord with Madison’s fundamental principles of constitutional design.

Florida: Broward Supervisor of Elections: Gov. Scott’s Voter Purge Will Remove Eligible Voters From Rolls | Think Progress

According to the Broward County Supervisor of Elections, eligible voters will be removed from the voting rolls as a result of the massive voter purge ordered by Governor Rick Scott. “It will happen,” Mary Cooney, a spokeswoman for the Broward CouPress Thisnty Supervisor of Elections, told ThinkProgress. Late last year, Governor Scott ordered his Secretary of State, Kurt Browning to “to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls.” Browning could not get access to reliable citizenship data. So Scott urged election officials to identify non-U.S. citizens by comparing data from the state motor vehicle administration with the voting file.

Florida: Governor started push to remove voters from rolls | MiamiHerald.com

Florida’s quest to identify and remove non-U.S. citizens from the voter rolls was started at the direct urging of Gov. Rick Scott, the state’s former top elections official said. Ex-Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who resigned this year, told The Associated Press that Scott asked him whether or not non-U.S. citizens were registered and if those people were voting. Browning explained to the governor during a face-to-face meeting last year that people who register and falsely claim they are citizens can be charged with a crime. “He says to me – well, people lie,” Browning recalled this week. “Yes, people do. But we have always had to err on the side of the voter.” Browning said the conversation prompted state election officials to begin working to identify non-U.S. citizens. The state’s initial list – compiled by comparing driver’s licenses with voter registration data – showed that as many as 182,000 registered voters were eligible to be in the country but ineligible to vote.

Editorials: Voting in America: When is Democracy not a Democracy? | Al Jazeera

Democracy. That buzzword we hear over and over again coming from powerful quarters in the US to help explain interventions across the globe, from Iraq to Central America. But while many in the world are familiar with the buzzword, few may realise that a fight over democracy is being waged on American soil as we speak, and it comes in the form of challenging brand new voting laws. Here’s a little background: In 2010 the Republican Party swept to power at the state level across the US. Today they control the senate and the House of Representatives in 25 states, and have a significant presence in a number of other state level legislatures. They’ve been using that newly acquired power to pass laws that clamp down on what they say is rampant voter fraud. To date, at least 30 new laws and bills have been introduced to change the rules of the voting game, like for example requiring voters to have a government-issued photo ID to cast their ballot. Since embarking on this story, I have had a number of people ask me “what’s the big deal with wanting people to present a photo ID when they vote?” On the surface, nothing.

Florida: Scott hires Ken Detzner as new Florida secretary of state | Post on Politics

Gov. Rick Scott has tapped long-time beer lobbyist and Tallahassee insider Ken Detzner to replace retiring Secretary of State Kurt Browning. It’s the second time Scott’s hired a former secretary of state to head the department that oversees elections and cultural affairs. Detzner briefly served as interim secretary of state under former Gov. Jeb Bush as well as chief of staff for former Secretary of State Jim Smith. He also spent six years working for Smith when Smith was the attorney general. Detzner recently helped the attorney general’s office handle claims related to the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

Florida: Court rejects state’s request to expedite voting law challenge | Naked Politics

A panel of federal judges today rejected a request by Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning to expedite a ruling on the lawsuit challenging the state’s changes to its voting laws. Download Fla v USA 55 Order on motion to expedite “We’re disappointed that the court could not accommodate our schedule,” said Browning’s spokesman, Chris Cate. “We look forward to the opportunity for making the case than none of Florida’s election laws are discriminatory.”

The reason the state is pressing the federal government for a quick resolution is the accelerated political calendar. A panel of legislative appointees has set Florida’s presidential preference primary for Jan. 31, 2012, but the last day that people can register to vote to be able to cast ballots in that election will be Jan. 3, 2012. If the legal issues surrounding the election law rewrite aren’t settled by then, the state will be in the awkward position of not having major changes to the laws pre-cleared as they affect five counties: Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe.


Florida: Legislator to Scott: Stop fighting Voting Rights Act | Florida Independent

State Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, the House Democratic Leader-designate, has written an open letter to Gov. Rick Scott criticizing the state’s latest effort to undermine the Voting Rights Act.

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning recently filed a complaint in court claiming that the Voting Rights Act’s federal preclearance provision is “unconstitutional.” Five counties in Florida fall under the preclearance rules; the state must receive approval from the federal government in order to implement the new voting laws in those areas. The other 62 counties have already implemented the new elections regulations.

The state is currently awaiting a D.C. court’s approval of controversial parts of the new election laws limiting third-party voter registration drives, shortening the “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, adding new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, and reducing the number of early voting days in the state.


Florida: U.S. judge dismisses ACLU challenge of Florida election law | Palm Beach Post

A federal judge in Miami has thrown out a lawsuit against Gov. Rick Scott and his administration over the state’s new elections laws. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore ruled that the ACLU, which filed the lawsuit, lacked standing to sue and that it’s too early to rule on whether the new law is unconstitutional. Scott applauded the decision.

“I have always been confident that our elections have been conducted fairly and meet every legal requirement. Today’s decision only confirms that opinion. As we draw nearer to nationally significant elections in 2012, I will continue to ensure the integrity and fairness of Florida elections,” Scott said in a statement.

Editorials: Rick Scott’s misdirection on voting rights | St. Petersburg Times

Gov. Rick Scott’s administration has a novel strategy to preserve state election changes that would disproportionately hurt minority voters: Get the courts to end the federal process in Florida that could prevent the changes from taking effect in Hillsborough and four other counties. A three-judge court in the District of Columbia should not fall for the misdirection play, and it should not approve the discriminatory voting practices embraced by the governor and the Legislature.

The state first went shopping over the summer when it asked the federal court — rather than the Obama administration’s Justice Department — to sign off on four controversial provisions of a new elections law that would particularly hurt the poor and minorities. Adopted by the GOP-controlled Legislature this year, the changes reduce the number of days for early voting, make it harder for people who move to cast regular ballots at their new polling places, and put up new roadblocks for voter registration drives and citizen petitions.

Florida: In push for its new election law, Florida challenges Voting Rights Act | Palm Beach Post

Florida’s top elections official is challenging federal oversight of voting laws in jurisdicitions with a history of discrimination, including five Florida counties, as outdated and unconstitutional. Secretary of State Kurt Browning on Tuesday asked the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. to do way with the Voting Rights Act requirement that the federal government must preclear Florida’s new voting law before it can go into effect for Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe counties.

The law, passed by Florida’s Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott this spring, makes broad changes to Florida’s election laws. The U.S. Justice Department has approved all except four hotly contested sections of the law — the parts that would reduce the number of early voting days, set new rules for groups conducting voter registration drives, require voters changing out-of-county addresses at the polls to cast provisional ballots and make it more difficult to get citizen initiatives on the ballot.

Voting Blogs: Questionable Claims Regarding Early Voting by FL Secretary State in Amended VRA Complaint | electionsmith

In its amended complaint to receive declaratory judgment from a federal court that all sections of HB 1355 are entitled to preclearance under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Florida Secretary of State plays fast and loose with the facts. With respect to the shrinking of the days permissible to vote early in Florida, the complaint states (on page 19) that:

The changes to the early voting statute contained in Section 39 were adopted to expand access to early voting and provide each supervisor of elections additional flexibility regarding the scheduling of early voting. The changes to the early voting statute contained in Section 39 were not adopted with the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority.

Both the motive behind the statute, HB 1355, as well as the empirical evidence regarding race and early voting in Florida, are quite clear, and do not jibe with the claims made in the Secretary of State’s complaint.

Florida: State challenging Voting Rights Act provisions | wtsp.com

The state of Florida is gearing up for a battle with the U.S. government over states having to get federal approval on voting rights changes in areas with a history of discrimination, according to the News Service of Florida. Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning said the rule is outdated and unconstitutional in a court filing Tuesday.

… Ironically, Browning is currently seeking the required preclearance for a new Florida voting law before it can go into effectin five Florida counties. The new law changes certain requirements including early voting and change of address issues.

Florida: State allows civil rights groups to intervene in federal voting lawsuit | Miami Herald

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning on Friday agreed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to allow civil rights groups and individual legislators to intervene in a lawsuit over whether the state’s recent voter laws suppress minority voting.

Browning has asked the court to take over for the U.S. attorney general’s office and “pre-clear” the law to determine if it is in line with the minority voting protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The new law shortens the number of days available for early voting from 14 to eight days, (although it leaves open the opportunity to extend the number of total hours available for voting.) It also imposes tight limits on third-party voter registration groups and requires an out-of-county voter — such as a student — who tries to change her voting precinct on Election Day to cast a provisional ballot, which can be more easily challenged.

Florida: Secretary Of State Pens Incomplete Defense Of Controversial Voting Law | TPM

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning wrotein an editorial on Thursday that the Justice Department had determined “all 76 provisions” of Florida’s new elections law were not discriminatory, except for the four controversial parts of the law he didn’t want the department to review.

In fact, Browning retracted his submission of four controversial provisions of Florida’s new election law from the pre-clearance process at the Justice Department after the agency started asking questions.

Florida instead took the more expensive route of asking a federal court to decide whether additional provisions — including one that reduces the early voting period from 14 days to eight; another that requires voters who moved from another county to cast provisional ballots; one that requires third-party groups registering voters to turn in all forms within 48 hours — passed the smell test.

Florida: New election law approved – except for most controversial portions | OrlandoSentinel.com

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning announced Tuesday that the Obama administration had cleared 76 changes to state election law that the GOP-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott approved earlier this year.

But the “pre-clearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice doesn’t cover the four most controversial parts of the law. Last month, Browning asked a federal court in Washington D.C. to approve those changes, saying he didn’t think they’d get a “fair hearing” from Justice. The changes include reducing the number of days voters will have for early voting and new restrictions on third-party voter registration groups.

Florida: Debate Rages Over Florida’s Election Law Review | wmfe

Florida’s new election law is stirring up more controversy, as state officials defend their decision to take the most contentious parts of the law to a federal court instead of to the U.S. Justice Department. The law is already in effect in most of Florida, but it needs federal approval before it’s implemented statewide. The Florida Department of State says a court review will remove the possibility of “outside influence,” but opponents say there may be other motives at work.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires any changes in Florida’s election laws to get “pre-clearance” from the federal government. That’s because parts of the state have a history of suppressing minority voting.

Editorials: Making an end run around Justice | MiamiHerald.com

If Gov. Rick Scott and his administration are so convinced that major changes to election laws indeed will eliminate voter fraud (or the potential of it) — not merely make voting difficult for minority and poor people — he’d seek an imprimatur of fairness from the federal Department of Justice.

What could be better proof than an OK from an agency perceived by his administration to be in thrall to the political opposition?

Instead, Gov. Scott’s appointed secretary of state, Kurt Browning, is making an end run around Justice and seeking “preclearance” on those changes from the federal district court in Washington. The 1965 Voting Rights Act provides for preclearance from Justice or from the federal court for changes in states and counties with a history of discrimination. Justice usually is the venue for preclearance, and Mr. Browning first applied to Justice.

Florida: Secretary of State Defends Election Law Review | WMFE

Florida’s Secretary of State’s office is defending its decision to take the most contentious parts of a new election law to a federal court instead of to the U.S. Department of Justice. The law has to get federal approval, but there are questions about how the process should work.

The U.S. Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires any changes in Florida’s election laws to get “pre-clearance” from the federal government. That’s because parts of the state have a history of suppressing minority voting.

Contrary to analysis heard on Wednesday’s Morning Edition on WMFE, the Voting Rights Act does allow a jurisdiction to choose whether to seek that pre-clearance from the Justice Department or from a federal court.

Florida: Browning Seeks Unprecedented Path to New Election Law’s Approval | Public Media for Central Florida

Florida’s top election official is taking the most contentious parts of the state’s new election law to a federal judge. Secretary of State Kurt Browning says a court review will remove the possibility of “outside influence” and ensure a “neutral evaluation” of the new law, which is already in effect in most of Florida. But opponents are calling the move an end run around a long-established federal law.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires any changes in Florida’s election laws to get “pre-clearance” from the federal Department of Justice. That’s because parts of the state have a history of suppressing minority voting.

But in an unprecedented move, Secretary of State Kurt Browning has withdrawn the four most controversial parts of Florida’s new election law from the DOJ review. He says he’ll seek pre-clearance for those four parts from a federal judge instead. “He’s attempting to have a federal judge rule that the Voting Rights Act – the pre-clearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act – don’t apply,” explains Orlando attorney Derek Brett. He’s an expert in election law and he teaches constitutional law at the University of Central Florida.
“How does a federal judge do that? The only way a federal judge could do that is if Mr. Browning is able to, in some way, present some type of constitutional argument,” says Brett. He adds he’s not sure what that argument might be.

Florida: Does new election law make it harder for some to register to vote? | Palm Beach Post

Secretary of State Kurt Browning has asked a federal court to approve Florida’s new election law, sidestepping the U.S. Justice Department on the most controversial portions of the voting overhaul approved by the GOP-dominated legislature in May.

Critics of the new law say it is designed to make registering to vote and casting ballots more difficult for minorities and low-income voters, who tend to vote Democratic. The ACLU and other groups are challenging the law in federal court in Miami. Jesse Jackson held rallies in Florida this week protesting the law.

On Friday, Browning withdrew four portions of the law – including those being challenged in federal court – from the application the state filed in June with the Department of Justice.

Florida: Browning avoids Obama administration review for parts of election law | Orlando Sentinel

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning has asked a federal court to review the state’s new election law, sidestepping the Obama administration’s examination of the most controversial pieces of the law that was a major priority for the GOP-led Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

Critics of the new law have been lobbying the U.S. Justice Department to invalidate the new law, saying it disenfranchises voters, particularly women and minorities. The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging part of the law in court and Rev. Jesse Jackson held rallies in Florida this past week in protest of the bill.