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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. Attorney General Holder to Rick Scott: We're watching you



U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder sent a scathing letter to Gov. Rick Scott over voting changes in Florida and issued a warning that the Justice Department is “carefully monitoring” the state.

“Whenever warranted by the facts and the law, we will not hesitate to use all tools and legal authorities at our disposal to fight against racial discrimination, to stand against disenfranchisement and to safeguard the right of every eligible American to cast a ballot,” Holder wrote.

Scott’s office dismissed it as a “bizarre attempt to help Charlie Crist.”

The letter, dotted with pointed language and examples of changes that have been enacted under Scott, comes months before the Republican governor faces off in an expected showdown with Democrat Crist.

“I am deeply disturbed that during your tenure your state has repeatedly added barriers to voting and restricted access to the polls,” Holder wrote, citing a 2011 decision to narrow early voting “that had previously enabled thousands of Floridians to cast ballots.” Holder said it was “widely recognized as a disaster.”

“I am pleased that last year you signed legislation that restored early voting days,” Holder wrote. “However, I have grave concerns that there remains a troubling pattern in your state of measures that make it more difficult, not easier, for Floridians to vote.”

Holder goes on to cite more recent changes, including a 2013 directive by Secretary of State Ken Detzner to not collect absentee ballots at places other than their offices, and a rejected request to use the University of Florida’s student union as an early voting site.

Scott’s office said the letter was blatantly partisan and referred questions to the campaign.

"Attorney General Eric Holder’s letter is just more politics from President Obama – as the White House desperately tries to prop up the sagging campaign of their candidate, Charlie Crist,” spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said. “It isn’t surprising that the same President who used the IRS to persecute his political opponents is now using his Attorney General to try the same tactic.

"In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder’s own Justice Department pre-cleared the voting changes in the 2011 law that governed the 2012 general election in Florida. However, in May 2013, Governor Scott signed HB 7013 into law to correct inefficiencies in the earlier law. The new 2013 law added more early voting locations, more early voting days and shortened the length of the ballot. Perhaps the Attorney General is against these reforms and he wants to turn back the clock to the days of less early voting time and less early voting locations in a bizarre attempt to help Charlie Crist. But, Governor Scott has worked to make Florida elections more efficient, convenient and accessible to all voters."

[Last modified: Friday, August 1, 2014 9:46am]


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