Posts Tagged ‘Kurt Browning’

Justice Department seeks trial on Florida’s elections law changes

Posted on: March 5th, 2012 by The American Independent No Comments

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo: Flickr/Ryan J. Reilly)

The United States Department of Justice announced Friday that it will seek a trial regarding Florida’s controversial elections law overhaul, passed last year by the state legislature. The law has drawn harsh criticism from civil rights and advocacy groups and has led to multiple legal challenges.

(more…)

Blocking the Vote

Posted on: February 28th, 2012 by Patrick Caldwell 3 Comments

Ruthelle Frank, an 84-year-old resident of a small town in Wisconsin, is suing her home state because, for the first time in her adult life, she might not be able to vote. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican-led Legislature enacted a new law that requires state-issued photo identification for all voters. Because Frank cannot drive, she has never held a license. Last November, Frank’s daughter drove her to their local Department of Motor Vehicles office to obtain a photo ID. (more…)

U.S. attorney general goes after states challenging Voting Rights Act

Posted on: December 14th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Photo: Flickr/ryanjreilly)

During a speech given in Texas last night, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder criticized legal challenges launched by states — including Florida — against the section of the Voting Rights Act that requires approval of election laws in certain areas. Holder also affirmed the need for vigilance against laws aimed at rolling back voting rights.

(more…)

Voter-registration case against Florida teacher moves forward

Posted on: December 13th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (Photo: myfloridalegal.com)

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Dawn Quarles, one of the teachers now in trouble for not following new rules for voter registration, is getting ready to face a penalty for her violation.

(more…)

Florida lawmakers subpoenaed as part of voting restrictions case

Posted on: November 29th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton (Photo: Office of Senate President/ via flsenate.gov)

Five state senators and five state House members have been issued subpoenas by a law firm representing the League of Women Voters of Florida and the National Council of La Raza. Both groups have intervened in the case of State of Florida vs. United States of America and Eric H. Holder Jr. Holder is the U.S. attorney general.

The case was filed by the state to have a court in D.C. approve four of the most controversial parts of the state’s new elections law. The three-judge panel will look at whether new restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, a shortened “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, obstacles for voters looking to change their registered addresses on election day and a reduction in the number of early voting days will make it harder for minorities to vote.

Secretary of State Kurt Browning shifted the federal preclearance process of the voting laws for five counties in the state (as mandated by the Voting Rights Act) away from the Department of Justice.

Now interveners are asking for answers from state legislators.

The Miami Herald reports:

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who sponsored the legislation (HB 1355), said he received a copy of the subpoena electronically while he was talking with a reporter Tuesday. ”What we’ll do is look to the House counsel for guidance and conduct ourselves accordingly,” Baxley said. A fifth House subpoena was issued to the State Affairs Committee, which approved the bill following a heated committee debate last spring.

Among many other demands, the subpoena tells Baxley and the others to produce “all documents concerning your, or any other legislator’s, reasons, justifications, rationales, interests and/or purposes in enacting any of the four sets of voting changes.” The law firm’s representative declined to discuss why specific legislators were issued subpoenas.

The other House members whose records were demanded are Reps. Keith Perry, R-Ocala; Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach; Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City; and Trudy Williams, R-Fort Myers. Senators who were subpoenaed include Sens. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton; Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale; Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland; Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey; and John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine. (Dockery and Fasano were the only Senate Republicans who voted against the bill; all of the others voted for it).

Browning has also filed a complaint asking that the federal pre clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act be thrown out, because he believes the provision is “unconstitutional.”

The Voting Rights Act, which became law in 1965, was written to outlaw discriminatory voting rules in the states. The precelarance provision requires the federal government to review and approve any changes to election laws in certain areas. Five Florida counties currently fall under that jurisdiction: Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. asked Holder earlier this month to have the Justice Department launch an investigation into whether the “new state voting laws resulted from collusion or an orchestrated effort to limit voter turnout.” Holder has so far only expressed concern over states seeking to “restrict the ability of people to get to the polls” during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month. No formal investigation has been announced.

Eric Rodriguez, a VP with the National Council of La Raza, recently condemned what he described as efforts by Florida officials to suppress the votes of Latina/os in the state — as well as those of other minorities.

According to his press release:

Several weeks ago, the National Council of la Raza and the League of Women Voters filed an intervening motion to prevent the implementation of these provisions. If allowed to go into effect, millions of Hispanic and other minority voters across the state will become disenfranchised. Florida’s example is likely one to be duplicated in other states, creating a dangerous precedent that is likely to scale back some of the progress we’ve fought so hard for as a nation, over the last half of a century.

Rodriguez also said that the state’s complaint against the Voting Rights Act demonstrated “a determined effort to push for full implementation of a law that only serves to undercut the basic American right granted to all citizens of this great nation—the right to vote.”

Florida ACLU asks Senate for speedy hearings on voting law

Posted on: November 29th, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments
Howard Simon, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, has written a letter to Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., urging him to hold Senate hearings on the state’s controversial new voting law as soon as possible.

Durbin recently granted Sen. Bill Nelson’s request for field hearings into Florida’s controversial new voting law that many say could disenfranchise minorities, young voters and low-income citizens, among others.

The ACLU of Florida has been one of the interveners in Florida’s effort to push forward the implementation of the contreversial new rules.

Florida’s new law imposes new regulations on third party voter registration drives, creates a shorter “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives and adds new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day. The new law would also eliminate some early voting days, including the Sunday before election day. Opponents of the law have said the restrictions would remove voting rights from people all over the state.

Simon says in his letter to Durbin: “I am writing today not just to thank you for your efforts but to strongly encourage you to hold these hearings at the soonest possible opportunity and in some of the Florida communities most affected by the new voting restrictions so you and the other Senators can hear firsthand from those who will suffer most.”

Simon writes:

Governor Scott and Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning’s rush to implement the new, regressive election changes has created two sets of voting laws in Florida – setting the stage for voter confusion, mass disenfranchisement and yet another national embarrassment for Florida. With a statewide election scheduled in Florida on January 31, 2012 there is little time for Senate hearings to investigate these votersuppression laws  and to urge changes before their impact will be realized. Accordingly, I ask that you please consider scheduling these hearings as soon as your schedules will allow – and if possible before the January 31, 2011 state elections.

I also ask that you hold at least three hearings on this mass voter suppression law in Florida – allowing the most impacted citizens and communities to share their concerns directly. Specifically, I recommend hearings in Tallahassee, St. Petersburg and Ft. Lauderdale. Hearings in these communities will allow the Committee to hear needed information directly from the young voters, racial and language minorities as well as low income voters this new law targets.

As you are aware, the ACLU strongly and repeatedly objected to these efforts to suppress the vote and infringe on basic voting rights when they were considered by the Legislature last year. We have also initiated and supported every opportunity to challenge these punitive changes both at the Department of Justice and in the Courts.

We have publicly rejected the baseless justification for this legislation – namely preventing some unspecified and nonexistent “potential fraud.” Your Committee may wish to invite county Supervisors of Elections to testify at these hearings so you can hear directly about the existence or non-existence of voter fraud that could be addressed by the new changes in question.

Rather than address voter fraud, these new, unnecessary laws are designed to manipulate the outcome of elections by making it harder for some groups to vote.  It’s a scheme we’ve seen before. The naked political motives help explain why Gov. Scott’s administration has repeatedly delayed and engaged in other distracting legal and political tactics to keep the real impact of these voting changes hidden from public and legal review. Their goal of using election laws and voting rights to manipulate elections by suppressing the vote is so strong that Gov. Scott now is using the ongoing legal battle over these new provisions to challenge the constitutionality of the landmark Voting Rights Act (specifically, Section 5) which has protected racial and language minorities against this very type of attack on their right to vote for more than four decades.

Florida is currently waiting for a ruling on controversial aspects of the law from a court in the District of Columbia. The state has also been one of the most closely watched states instituting stricter voting laws right before the 2012 election.

Florida teacher may be in trouble with controversial elections law

Posted on: October 31st, 2011 by The American Independent No Comments
Secretary of State Kurt Browning has asked Attorney General Pam Bondi “to investigate and seek applicable fines” for another teacher who recently got in trouble for breaking a part of the state’s new and controversial elections law, according to the Associated Press. (more…)

Court won’t allow expedited hearing on new Florida voting rules

Posted on: October 28th, 2011 by The American Independent 1 Comment

A U.S. District Court has denied a request by the state of for an expedited hearing on whether Florida is adhering to the Voting Rights in the five counties requiring federal preclearance.

(more…)