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Florida: a Tough Place to Cast a Ballot

Florida is courting electoral trouble. Heading toward another presidential election, state officials are making it increasingly difficult for citizens to vote, according to Miami Herald editorial.

Published: April 30, 2008

Developments to Keep an Eye On

League of Women Voters of Florida v. Browning
On April 28, 2008, the Brennan Center, along with the Advancement Project and Debevoise and Plimpton filed a lawsuit on behalf of the League of Women Voters of Florida, one of its members, the AFL-CIO of Florida, and AFSCME Council 79 challenging a revised Florida voter registration law that imposes prohibitive fines on voter registration groups and risks preventing eligible Florida citizens from registering and voting in the 2008 elections.

On April 30, 2008, the parties entered into a binding agreement filed in federal court. Under the agreement, Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning stated that he will not enforce the restrictions until the administrative rulemaking process is completed, which he estimates will occur no earlier than early July 2008. 

“No Match, No Vote”
On Thursday, April 3rd, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta reversed the December decision of a U.S. District Court Judge in Gainesville to block a statewide election law that had kept 14,000 eligible Florida citizens off of the voter rolls, and could prevent tens of thousands more from registering and voting in the 2008 elections. 

Voters Booted by Meaningless Mistakes
On March 25th, a federal district court in Miami rejected a challenge to yet another portion of Florida’s voter registration law that traps voters based on meaningless mistakes. This provision prevents would-be voters who timely submit a voter registration application before the registration deadline, but inadvertently omit information from the form, to correct the application if the omission is discovered after the registration deadline.  

Prior to the 2006 federal elections in Florida, thousands of eligible voters submitted applications on time but neglected to check small boxes on the registration form confirming their eligibility and citizenship. Once they received notice from election officials of the mistake, the voter applicants were prevented by Florida law from correcting the mistake in time for them to participate in the elections. 

Miami Herald 


April 30, 2008 

Florida is courting electoral trouble. Heading toward another presidential election, state officials are making it increasingly difficult for citizens to vote. Thanks to state laws, national election experts are warning that Florida is one of the hardest places to vote. Recent court decisions and a lamentable move by Secretary of State Kurt Browning could make matters worse.

The potential result: Thousands of eligible Florida voters—many of them poor, black and Hispanic—will be prevented from having a voice in the November election.

>read entire editorial here.

Palm Beach Post 


May 2, 2008

Florida has become a national leader in erecting barriers to voting. Not only have Republican legislators failed to shake the legacy of 2000, they’ve made it worse. “At every step of the process,” said attorney Wendy Weiser of the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, “there’s a hurdle in Florida.” 

> read entire editorial here

NY Times


May 2, 2008 

It would be hard for Florida to surpass its disastrous performance in the 2000 election, but give the Sunshine State credit for trying. Its latest assault on democracy: a law threatening volunteer groups with crippling fines if they make small mistakes in registering voters. The law seems clearly aimed at keeping new voters—especially minorities and the poor—off the rolls. And it is working. The League of Women Voters, which has registered Florida voters since 1939, has called off its registration drive this year. 

> read entire Cohen op-ed here

Daytona Beach News-Journal


May 3, 2008 

After the disgrace of the 2000 election, Florida by now should have had the time to become a model of fair and accurate elections. Instead, according to the Pew Center on the States’ and New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice, Florida is among the hardest places to vote. And the state is making it even harder for prospective voters to register.

> read entire editorial here 

St. Petersburg Times


May 11, 2008

It had taken almost three weeks to track down Elections Supervisor Buddy Johnson to hand him a subpoena for his testimony in a federal voting rights case brought by the NAACP.

When Johnson finally sat for his deposition, he said he didn’t know the answers to dozens of questions about procedures in his office.

He was unable to describe details of the voter registration process and unwilling to respond to routine questions, including the degrees he held and where he lived. Johnson complained that an NAACP lawyer treated him with condescension, and he briefly donned a football helmet before beginning the second day of testimony.

> read entire piece here