Non-uniform application of state’s 2011 “Voter Suppression Act” results in two sets of election laws in Florida.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 10, 2012
CONTACT: ACLU of Florida Media Office, (786) 363-2737 or firstname.lastname@example.org
TALLAHASSEE – A hearing will be held today in the administrative challenge to the implementation of a dual election involving restrictive changes in election procedures adopted by the Florida legislature in 2011. The challenge was brought by The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, along with State Senator Arthenia Joyner, and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).
The challenge claims that the State of Florida is operating an unlawful dual system of elections in violation of the state “Uniformity Statute.” Sixty-two Florida counties are enforcing restrictive 2011 changes to the Florida election code, known by voting rights groups as the “Voter Suppression Act.” However, the previous law still applies in the five counties that are “covered” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) while the state awaits a federal court decision on whether the 2011 changes violate Section 5.
If the petitioners prevail in the administrative challenge, the state would be required to stop enforcing the voter suppression legislation throughout the state until and unless the federal court decides the state has proven that the controversial provisions of the law do not violate the VRA.
The petition was filed on Friday, June 29th, with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings and will be heard and decided by an Administrative Law Judge assigned by the Division. The petitioners are represented by Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Brennan Center for Justice, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida. The Washington D.C. office of the Bryan Cave Law firm and Mark Herron of Messer Caparello & Self of Tallahassee are also providing pro bono legal counsel in the case.
Below are statements from parties involved in the challenge:
Howard Simon, Executive Director ACLU of Florida:
“Because Gov. Scott refuses to wait to see if the election law changes are pre-cleared by the federal court in Washington, we now have different election rules for Naples and neighboring Bonita Springs; different rules for Miami and the Florida Keys. This is a recipe for chaos and confusion. The Governor’s disregard for the Voting Rights Act ignores interpretations of election law that have governed the administration of Florida elections under both Democratic and Republican administrations.”
State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, whose district includes portions of Pinellas and Hillsborough counties:
“Voters in my district are being asked to follow two different sets of laws for the upcoming elections. State laws shouldn’t change depending on which end of a bridge you live on, and it shouldn’t be harder to vote on one end than it is on the other. The situation is confusing to voters, unfair, and illegal.“
Diana Kasdan, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice:
"Florida has repeatedly passed laws, and taken administrative actions, that make it harder for some citizens to vote. These actions are contrary to the founding principles of this country -- that all Americans have the ability to participate equally in our democracy. Today we are simply asking the court to ensure that all Florida voters have fair and equal access to the ballot.”
Robert Kengle, Co-Director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project
“Florida law requires the Secretary of State to see that election officials follow uniform voting rules across the State. The Secretary instead is requiring counties to follow different sets of rules for early voting and provisional ballots. This is wrong and we are asking that that it be reversed."
Mark Herron, counsel for the plaintiffs:
“This case presents significant issues regarding fairness and equality in voting here in State of Florida. The uniformity statute is supposed to guarantee that Florida’s elections laws are applied statewide in the same manner and with the same effect.“
More information about the challenge is available here: http://bit.ly/M1xTc8
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