Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson slams Florida voting law during congressional hearing

WASHINGTON — Testifying in a congressional hearing Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson sharply condemned Florida's new election law as a ploy to suppress participation of Democratic voters.

Invoking the 2000 presidential election debacle, the Democrat said: "It was a painful experience and because of that, the state Legislature set about on a series of reforms. They made it easier to vote, they made it easier to register to vote. And they made it easier that someone would have the confidence that their vote was going to be counted as they intended. That has suddenly been reversed in the state of Florida."

The new law, pushed by the GOP-controlled Florida Legislature and signed in May by Gov. Rick Scott, reduces early voting from 14 days to eight; eliminates early voting on the Sunday before the election; and imposes new registration requirements and shorter filing deadlines on third-party groups that register voters.

It also requires voters who move from one county to another to file a provisional ballot if they wait to update their voting address until Election Day.

Advocates say the changes will cut down on voter fraud.

But detractors say the problem never existed. The law is the focus of a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Nelson said it was suspicious that the Sunday voting was cut, noting that a "certain number of voters" go to the polls after church. That is a time when African-Americans, who often vote Democrat, have gone to the polls.

Nelson is up for re-election in 2012.

Nelson's testimony came before the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, which is looking at election laws in several states, including Wisconsin, Texas, Indiana, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina.

The meeting was chaired by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who suggested the effort among states was "coordinated and well-financed."

He said he had sent a letter to Scott and the governors of Wisconsin and Tennessee "asking them to inform the subcommittee of their plans for ensuring the laws they have enacted will not disenfranchise the citizens of their state."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., praised lawmakers in his state for making changes requiring voters to show a valid driver's license or state ID before voting.

"When you get on an airplane, you have to have some form of ID," he said. "When it comes to voting, I don't think it's too much of a stretch to say you have to prove that you are who you say you are."

U.S. Rep. Todd Rokita, a Republican who had previously served as Indiana's secretary of state, countered that the changes in his state have not caused any problems. "We want to instill confidence in the process, to drive up turnout," he said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson slams Florida voting law during congressional hearing 09/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, September 8, 2011 9:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Kevin Kiermaier: Return to action Thursday 'didn't set the world on fire'

    The Heater

    Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's return from the hip injury that sidelined him since June 8 could have gone better Thursday in Port Charlotte. He broke two bats and went hitless in two at bats while playing for the Class A Charlotte Stone Crabs.

    Kevin Kiermaier takes cuts in the cage during batting practice before the game between the Rays and Texas Rangers Saturday at Tropicana Field. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  2. U.S. economy gathers steam in second quarter


    WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy revved up this spring after a weak start to the year, fueled by strong consumer spending. But the growth spurt still fell short of the optimistic goals President Donald Trump hopes to achieve through tax cuts and regulatory relief.

    A government report released Friday showed economic output picked up in the second quarter. 
[Associated Press file photo]
  3. What you need to know about Bucs training camp


    Bucs training camp is here.

    This morning was the first of 13 practices that are free and open to the general public, so we have all the details to answer your questions about where and when and so on.

    Dirk Koetter is nothing if not precise, with practices starting at 8:45 a.m. and running until 10:27. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  4. Fennelly: It's high time for Bucs to take Tampa Bay back


    TAMPA — Welcome to the proving ground.

    Bucs training camp begins today.

    Hard Knocks and flop sweat.

    Work and more work.

    "We have a lot to prove,'' wide receiver Mike Evans (13) says. "We're good on paper, but we've got to do it." [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
  5. Old dog's lucky day: Video shows firefighters rescuing 12-year-old Shar-Pei mix from bay


    MIAMI BEACH — Junior spent Thursday night lounging on a pillow, too tired to move.

    Jose Ruiz takes a selfie with his dog named Junior after Junior was rescued from Biscayne Bay. [Photo courtesy of Jose Ruiz via Miami Herald]