Browning agrees to allow civil rights groups to join suit challenging voting law
Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning on Friday agreed with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to allow civil rights groups and individual legislators to intervene in a lawsuit over whether the state's recent voter laws suppress minority voting.
Browning has asked the court to take over for the U.S. attorney general's office and "pre-clear" the law to determine if it is in line with the minority voting protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The new law shortens the number of days available for early voting from 14 to eight days, (although it leaves open the opportunity to extend the number of total hours available for voting.) It also imposes tight limits on third-party voter registration groups and requires an out-of-county voter -- such as a student -- who tries to change her voting precinct on Election Day to cast a provisional ballot, which can be more easily challenged.
The ACLU, on behalf of 10 individuals from three of the of the five Florida counties covered by the Voting Rights Act, filed motions to intervene in the state's lawsuit. The Florida AFL-CIO, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, the National Council of La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Florida, Project Vote and Voting for America have also filed motions to intervene.
The groups argue that the voting law changes approved by the Republican-led legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott will have a negative effect on the voting rights of minorities. Among the individuals represented by the ACLU are Tampa Democrats, Rep. Janet Cruz and Sen. Arthenia Joyner, as well as the supervisors of elections for Monroe and Leon counties.
Browning's lawyers had been raising concerns all week that allowing the groups to intervene would delay the case, said Howard Simon of the ACLU. But rather than oppose intervention, Browning filed a motion late Friday in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia supporting the motions to intervene.
The state wrote in its motion that “Florida would not object to allowing Movant-Intervenors to permissibly intervene if the Court imposes reasonable limitations on their participation consistent with the expeditious resolution of this case.”
"The state is trying to suppress the votes of racial and language minority voters, as well as young voters,'' Simon said. "The good news (for us) is that it appears that we will not need to expend time and resources fighting the state to allow the voices of the voters to be heard in the litigation."