October 12, 2011

Florida Seeks End to Federal Review of Voting Laws in Five Counties

Five Florida Counties
With Federal Oversite
The Steve Bousquet in the Miami Herald is reporting:
Florida is challenging the federal government’s long-standing authority to review and approve new voting laws in five counties in order to protect minority voters from discrimination.

The counties, which include Hillsborough and Monroe in the Florida Keys, find themselves at the center of a growing legal battle as the 2012 presidential election unfolds in the nation’s largest battleground state.

Gov. Rick Scott’s chief elections officer, Secretary of State Kurt Browning, asked a federal court Tuesday to remove the five counties from the voting law pre-clearance process after 40 years. The other counties are Collier, Hardee and Hendry. . . .

The Republican-controlled Legislature last spring approved sweeping changes to Florida’s election laws, and four of the most controversial provisions remain suspended in the five affected counties pending the federal review. . . .

In a statement, Browning acknowledged the need for laws to protect voters from discrimination. But he added: “There is no constitutional basis to single out five Florida counties ... based solely on information from decades ago.”

The state argues that the 40-year-old formula the federal government uses to determine pre-clearance is “arbitrary and irrational” and should no longer apply to Florida.

The state said the five affected Florida counties were subjected to federal pre-clearance in 1972 because less than half of the adults in the counties were registered to vote, they had a non-English speaking population of more than 5 percent and election materials were published only in English. . . . Read Full Article

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