Voting battle continues after court ruling
State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, (c) led a six-person delegation of Black leaders to the governor’s office recently along with Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, (l) and Leon County Commissioner Bill Proctor.
By Brandon Larrabee
The News Service of Florida
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, FL — The battle over the state’s controversial elections law reignited Monday (Aug. 20, 2012) four days after a three-judge federal panel rejected a move to reduce the number of days of early voting in five counties.
Two state lawmakers joined a group of elected officials and civic leaders who unsuccessfully sought a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott to get him to roll back the blocked provision in the other 62 counties. Meanwhile, the elections supervisor of one of the five counties where the measure was barred by the federal court said state officials pushed local governments to try again to get a similar change approved.
The Legislature approved a measure in 2011 that would reduce the number of early voting days from 12 to eight while allowing — but not requiring — supervisors to make up for the difference by extending the voting hours on those days.
At the center of the battle is the intersection of that law with Florida’s obligations under the federal Voting Rights Act. Because of a history of racial and language discrimination, the five counties — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe — have to get any changes in voting procedures approved by the U.S. Department of Justice or a three-judge panel.
The other 62 counties don’t face the same “preclearance” hurdle, though they still have to comply with the provisions of the Voting Rights Act meant to secure everyone’s right to cast ballots. Critics of the early voting change say the federal court ruling proves the law should be void across the state.