Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sen. Nelson blasts Florida Legislature's 2012 election-law changes

State Democratic chairman Rod Smith, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, and former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, from left,  listen to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson talk about an election law overhaul at a news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee Monday.

SCOTT KEELER | Times

State Democratic chairman Rod Smith, Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, and former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, from left, listen to U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson talk about an election law overhaul at a news conference at the Capitol in Tallahassee Monday.

TALLAHASSEE — Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson blasted state Republican lawmakers Monday for an election law overhaul that he says will block college students and military personnel from having their votes counted next year when he and President Barack Obama both seek re-election.

Then Nelson waded into a controversy of his own when he suggested the U.S. special forces that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden could be blocked from voting if the Legislature passes the bill.

"Should we deny those very military that carried out this very successful decapitating of the al-Qaida snake?" Nelson asked at a Capitol news conference. "Should we deny them because they have signed their voter registration card in a different way than they signed their absentee ballot overseas?"

Republicans pounced on Nelson, with several releasing critical statements.

Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, the House majority leader, accused Nelson of an "outrageous political stunt."

"His disgraceful suggestion that the Florida Legislature would attempt to diminish the voting rights of American heroes is offensive and untruthful," Lopez-Cantera said.

The target of Nelson's wrath are bills awaiting floor votes in the last few days of the session. Under the proposed changes, voters could not update addresses at the polls unless they moved within their county, and third-party groups that don't turn in voter registration forms within 48 hours would face $50-a-day fines.

Republicans say their goal is an election system with more integrity. Democrats accuse Republicans of voter suppression to improve their chances of victory.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is campaigning to be the Republican nominee against Nelson in 2012, is a strong supporter of lifting the 40-year-old law that allowed voters who have moved since the last election to update their address at the time they vote. Under the proposed change, those voters would cast provisional ballots.

"It's going to be an up-or-down vote, and I'm going to be voting for it," Haridopolos said. "If you're a voter, it's your responsibility to keep current as to what your address is."

Of Nelson's comments, Haridopolos, 41, said: "I just felt it was bush league from someone who has been in office since I was 2 years old."

Joining Nelson, 69, were Florida Democratic Party chairman Rod Smith, former Attorney General Bob Butterworth, Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich and other Democratic lawmakers, and Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho, who accused the Republican-controlled Legislature of playing politics.

Asked if he felt the election-law changes were an attack on him personally, Nelson said, "This is a personal attack on the people of Florida."

A spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning said that between January 2008 and March 2011 in Florida, there were 31 cases of alleged voter fraud referred to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for investigation. Only three resulted in arrests.

The Senate bill, SB 2086, also would move up the date of next year's primary to Aug. 14, two weeks before the Republican National Convention in Tampa, and it would create a special commission to pick the date of Florida's next presidential primary. It would not make any changes to early voting.

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Sen. Nelson blasts Florida Legislature's 2012 election-law changes 05/02/11 [Last modified: Monday, May 2, 2011 9:47pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Veteran big game hunter dies after elephant, felled by gunfire, collapses on him

    Wildlife

    Theunis Botha led his first guided hunting safari through South Africa's grasslands in 1989. A college student at the time, he used the money he received to help put himself through school.

    Big game hunter Theunis Botha, shown here with elephant tusks, was killed during a hunt in west Zimbabwe.
  2. Hey, somebody really ought to write about this Aaron Judge guy

    Blogs

    He can catch, too.

    It's no tall tale.

    Aaron Judge, The Amazing Colossal Man, has come and gone, but not before he stunned the Rays with a diving, game-saving catch in the sixth inning of Yankees 3-2 win Sunday at Tropicana Field. The 6-foot-7, 282-pound Judge robbed Evan Longoria of an RBI double and helped …

    Aaron Judge stunned the Rays with a diving, game-saving catch in the sixth inning of Yankees 3-2 win Sunday at Tropicana Field.
  3. Review: Don't miss Israel Horovitz's 'Gloucester Blue' at Jobsite Theater

    Stage

    TAMPA — Sometimes a show comes along that does everything. It engages the senses on every level, tells a story that feels real, and keeps you guessing to the end.

    Ned Averill-Snell (left) plays Latham and Landon Green is Stumpy in Jobsite Theater's Gloucester Blue. Photo by Pritchard Photography.
  4. Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren joins other prosecutors in protesting Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policy

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Andrew Warren, the state attorney for Hillsborough County, is among signers of a letter from 31 district prosecutors nationwide voicing opposition to the tough-on-crime policies of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

    Hillsborough State Atttorney Andrew Warren is among the signers of a letter from 31 top prosecutors nationwide opposing Attorney General Jeff Sessions' 'tough-on-crime' policies. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times
  5. Suspect tells police he killed Tampa Palms roommates for disrespecting his Muslim faith

    Crime

    TAMPA — A man accused of shooting his roommates in a New Tampa apartment told police he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with the two men until he converted to Islam then killed them because they disrespected his faith.

    Devon Arthurs, 18, of Tampa told police  he shared neo-Nazi beliefs with his roommates, Jeremy Himmelman and Andrew Oneschuk, until he converted to Islam and shot them because they disrespected his faith.
[Photo courtesy of Tampa Police]