Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Two groups sue Gov. Scott over new Florida elections law

TALLAHASSEE — A pair of liberal-leaning groups sued Gov. Rick Scott on Friday to block an elections law that they say amounts to "voter suppression."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Project Vote filed the suit in the hopes that it would stop Miami-Dade County from shortening the number of early-voting days before its June 28 mayoral elections.

The new law shortens the early voting days — but not necessarily the number of total hours — from 14 to eight days. It also requires an out-of-county voter who tries to change his voting precinct on Election Day to cast a provisional ballot, which can be more easily challenged. Also, the law cracks down on third-party registration groups.

One of the plaintiffs, Tampa Sen. Arthenia Joyner, said the bill passed by the Republican-led Legislature is an example of a "rank partisan agenda" that disproportionately hurts minorities.

"It is un-American to make it a burden to vote. Too many people fought and died for this right," said Joyner, a Democrat. "This is an abomination. And it's unconscionable."

But the sponsor of the legislation, Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala, said the state needs to ensure there's no fraud.

The lawsuit is the fifth one to name Scott as a defendant in his role as governor. The other suits relate to drug-testing state workers, high-speed rail, constitutional amendments over redistricting and an executive order that froze state rules.

The suit names Scott's secretary of state, Kurt Browning, who has defended the need for the law — despite praising Florida's election system in 2008 and 2010.

The suit doesn't specifically target the substance of the law, but instead revolves around a technicality in the state's elections map.

Five counties have a special designation under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires Justice Department approval for voting changes. As a result, the supervisors in those counties — Monroe, Hillsborough, Collier, Glades and Hendry — told the state they couldn't and wouldn't implement the law until they received a sign-off, known as "preclearance." The supervisors and other elections experts say they never remember the state rushing ahead to implement a law without a sign-off.

Browning told the five counties last week that they didn't have to follow requirements of the new law.

But Howard Simon, executive director of Florida's ACLU, said the state can't enforce the law in some places and not others. So the ACLU sued. He said he believed the law more broadly violates the Voting Rights Act but that's a "battle we will get into down the road."

Simon said Miami-Dade's upcoming election was more of a pressing concern at the moment.

"Under which rules will this election take place? Will people who relocate have to cast a provisional ballot?" he asked. "The election should not take place under rules that have not been sanctioned."

Two groups sue Gov. Scott over new Florida elections law 06/03/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 3, 2011 9:52pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Port Tampa Bay makes public/private commitment for $60 million expansion project


    TAMPA — Port Tampa Bay approved a public-private partnership agreement with four other entities to divvy up who will pay for a $60 million widening and extension of the Big Bend Channel.

    Port Tampa Bay approved a participation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Florida Department of Transportation, Tampa Electric Company and Mosaic Company at the port's monthly board meeting on  Tuesday. Port Tampa Bay President & CEO Paul Anderson signs the agreement as Ram Kancharla; Port Tampa Bay's vice president of planning & development, Brandon Burch; project manager at United States Army Corps of Engineers, Lois Moore; of Alcalde and Fay and Charles Klug; Port Tampa Bay principal counsel, and Tim Murphy; deputy district engineer of the Army Corps., looks on. [Company handout]
  2. 7.1 magnitude quake kills more than 40, collapses buildings in Mexico


    MEXICO CITY — A magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked central Mexico on Tuesday, killing dozens of people, collapsing buildings and scattering rubble on streets less than two weeks after another quake left 90 dead in the country's south.

    Women embrace in the street after an earthquake in Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. A powerful earthquake has jolted Mexico, causing buildings to sway sickeningly in the capital on the anniversary of a 1985 quake that did major damage. [Eduardo Verdugo | Associated Press]
  3. Lightning Strikes! podcast: Preseason storylines to watch


    In this episode of our Lightning Strikes podcast, Joe Smith and columnist Tom Jones set up the preseason with storylines to watch, as well as expectations for the season. Will defenseman Mikhail …

    Will defenseman Mikhail Sergachev make the Lightning?
  4. Pinellas County to hire an expert to analyze lessons learned during Hurricane Irma


    Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard has his own opinions about the lessons learned from Hurricane Irma's reign over the area. But he plans to hire an outside expert to analyze what went right and wrong to better prepare for the 2018 hurricane season.

  5. Hurricane Maria slams Dominica, now takes aim at Puerto Rico


    ROSEAU, Dominica — Dominica's leader sent out an emotional plea for help as Hurricane Maria smashed into the Caribbean island causing "mind-boggling" devastation, but an ominous silence followed as …

    [National Hurricane Center]