Local and national voting rights groups voiced opposition Monday to an elections bill that’s awaiting a final vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The groups zeroed in on a provision in the bill (HB 7013) that changes the law for voters who need assistance at the polls. Under the change, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, a person seeking to assist a voter at the polls must already know the person, and no one may assist more than 10 voters in an election. “These restrictions on assistors will make it harder to vote, particularly for rmany of Florida’s Latino and Hispanic residents,” the groups said in advance of a conference call with Florida reporters.
The organizations included Florida New Majority, the Advancement Project, Service Employees International Union Local 1199, Florida Immigrant Coalition and Florida Conference of the NAACP. They said the Senate bill would disenfranchise voters who can’t read English. Advocates cited Section 208 of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which provides that a person who needs assistance as a result of blindness, disability, or the inability to read or write can receive assistance “from the person of his or her choice,” provided it’s not an agent or officer of the voter’s employer or union.
The House has not yet voted on the controversial provision limiting voter assistance at the polls. House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said Monday that House leaders have concerns about various provisions of the Senate bill, but he did not cite specifics.