A sweeping overhaul of Florida election laws is gaining momentum in the Legislature over strong opposition from opponents who say it would disenfranchise voters and weaken the process for ballot initiative.
The leading advocate of the changes is Senate Majority Leader Alex Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, who calls it a "voter protection bill." Voting groups and Democratic senators say it would depress turnout, erect new burdens to voter registration drives, expand the use of provisional ballots and heighten the influence of special-interest money in elections.
Among other things, the Senate bill would:
• Ban two forms of ID now allowed at the polls: retirement center and neighborhood association ID cards.
• Require voters who have moved to cast provisional ballots on Election Day. (They now can update their address at the polls when they vote.)
• Require groups that conduct voter registration drives to turn in signed voter applications within 48 hours. Paid petition-gatherers would also be forced to register.
• Allow legislators to form so-called leadership funds, which the Legislature outlawed in the mid 1990s as a fundraising abuse.
• Reduce from four years to two the life span of initiative petitions signed by voters.
The far-reaching, 72-page Republican-sponsored rewrite (SB 956) surfaced in the seventh week of a nine-week session and was heard for the first time Thursday.