Wrap-up of Senate hearing on new voting restrictions

Posted on: January 27th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

The American Independent’s sister site The Florida Independent live-blogged this afternoon’s U.S. Senate field hearing on the new voting restrictions approved by state legislatures around the country — including Florida’s — last year.

In case you missed it, here’s the wrap.

2:54 Hearing adjourned.

2:52 Nelson: “This country is unique in its Constitution and the legal system and the rule of law. That is what sets us apart from the rest of the world. … I think that the rule of law has been assaulted here … under the pretense of cutting down on voter fraud.” Big applause.

2:51 Nelson now closing, quoting Susan B. Anthony.

2:49 Durbin now offering closing comments, says we need to maintain voting standards that make us “an example for the world.”

2:47 Smith says inconsistent county voting laws “make a mockery” of the reforms enacted after 2000. Hillsborough County, the site of today’s hearing, is currently operating under the old elections laws because of the Voting Rights Act, while surrounding counties have been forced to implement new restrictions. More on this inconsistency here.

2:42 Smith says Ertel should look at Seminole County’s final Sunday turnout in 2008, saying he’s confident it matches up with trends elsewhere in the state. Calls looking at the current election a poor comparison because Democrats are staying home.

2:40 Durbin quoting Ertel’s testimony from the first panel about the turnout in the current presidential primary, asking Smith to “react.”

2:34 Smith: “In the state of Florida, when there is voter fraud, it’s done through absentee ballots.” Notes that absentee voting is not affected by Florida’s new rules.

2:30 Twitter photo by Pafford of panel No. 2:

2:23 Wilkes says he learned this morning that Florida counted the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday toward the 48-hour period between when a voter registration form is filled out and when it must be delivered according to the new law.

2:22 Wilkes says new rules make Florida the “captial of voter suppression and voter disenfranchisement” in America.

2:15 Parks: Florida African-Americans and Hispanics “twice as likely” to register to vote through third-party drives than whites.

2:13 Parks says new crop of voting restrictions “just as insidious as Jim Crow” laws.

2:09 Smith says there has been a 50 percent drop in the number of new voter registrations submitted in late 2007 and late 2011. Also points out that percentage of rejected registrations has not decreased.

2:08 Smith: Disproportionate number of young voters cast their ballots on the final Sunday of early voting, eliminated under Florida’s new law.

2:06 Smith says more African-Americans in Florida voted early than voted on election day in 2008.

2:03 Panel No. 2 coming up: National Bar Association President Daryl Parks, Florida College System Student Government Association President Sara Pemberton, UF political science professor Daniel Smith and League of United Latin American Citizens National Executive Director Brent A. Wilkes.

2 Durbin points out that no one on panel will make the case that voter fraud is rampant.

1:58 Just got this email from reader David Hart:

I am a retired CEO. I am partially disabled (due to having been shot a few years ago). I lived in Manhattan for over 30 years. When my partner died in 2010, I moved to South Beach.

Our vehicle was in my partner’s name and he did all the driving. For business, I always used car service. I have not had a valid drivers license in decades. I have no intention of doing international travel. When my passport expired, I replaced it with a US Passport Card and have used it for photo ID for some time.

That card will not allow me to vote because it does not have my signature. Now I have to get a copy of my SS card to schlep to DMV to get a gratuitous non-driver ID in order to vote.

BTW, if one does not have photo ID it is almost impossible to GET photo ID.

1:55 Ertel says he would support exempting teachers and other educators from voter registration restrictions. Waffles when asked whether that might include the nonpartisan League of Women Voters.

1:54 Durbin listening:

1:46 McFall says increased costs from bill could add up to $25,000 per early voting site.

1:44 McFall says she reached out to Volusia delegation about the law while it was passing through the Legislature, and received no response. Says it was like “the deal was done.”

1:40 Durbin presses Ertel to answer how shortening early voting days expands “opportunity.” Ertel says high Sunday turnout two days before election day not because it was a Sunday, but because it was the last day of early voting. Predicts high turnout on the final Saturday now that the second Sunday is cut.

1:37 McFall answering question from Durbin: “Voter fraud is not out there.” Says voter fraud cannot be the reason behind the Legislature’s law because it’s so rare.

1:37 Smathers says new rules violate federal law and hopes they are struck down there, adding he has “no hope in Tallahassee.”

1:34 Nelson listening to Smathers’ testimony:

1:32 Smathers (Florida secretary of state from 1975-78): “I am offended by what is happening.” Explains why he is speaking out.

1:28 “We are in the business of opportunity,” Ertel says, urging voters to register and cast ballots.

1:20 McFall tells the story of a teacher who may be fined for registering her high school students to vote. More on the case of  Jill Cicciarelli here.

1:16 McFall says new rules will cost her office money, due to 15-hour working days and excessive overtime.

1:14 Durbin calls the first panel: Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall, Seminole County Supervisor Michael Ertel and former Secretary of State Bruce Smathers.

1:10 Nelson credits Florida for making it easier to vote after the chaos of 2000.

1:08 Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., takes the mic: “We have a serious question of the civil rights of people being denied.”

1:02 Durbin describes history of voter discrimination in Florida in the context of Florida’s looming presidential primary.

1 The hearing starts on time. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., is laying out today’s procedures.

12:56 p.m. State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, who is present at the hearing, issued a statement this afternoon decrying the effect early voting limitations and other restrictions will have on the minority vote:

An analysis of election records has shown that 1.1 million black voters participated in Florida’s general election in 2008. More than half of those votes were cast prior to Election Day at early-voting sites. Comparably, just one-fourth of all white voters used early voting, and roughly one-third of Hispanic voters participated in early voting in that historic election.

On the final Sunday before the 2008 presidential election, black voters accounted for 32 percent of the daily early voting turnout in Florida. The changes made in last year’s voter suppression law would reduce the number of days of early voting and would eliminate the Sunday before election day as an early voting day.

Also of grave concern to me, the Republican-led Legislature’s move to reduce the number of days that third-party voter registration organizations have to submit completed applications will also be detrimental to minorities. In Florida, 15 percent of Hispanics and nearly 20 percent of African Americans registered to vote through registration drives in Florida in 2008, compared to 6 percent of whites.

The move to eliminate the ability to complete a change of address form at the polls will also hurt minorities. According to an estimate based on 2008 election figures, nearly 34,000 additional Florida voters will now be required to cast provisional ballots. Because minorities have higher mobility and foreclosure rates than whites, they are the voters most likely to move and will likely be disproportionately forced to cast a provisional ballot under the new law.

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