Elections expert says voting law will affect church ‘souls to the polls’ programs

By | 11.14.11 | 1:40 pm

Pic by samantha celera, via Flickr

Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a professor at Stetson University College of Law who teaches Election and Constitutional Law, told WMNF that Florida’s new voting laws could affect church efforts to get religious voters to the polls on the Sunday before election day.

Among restrictions that include new regulations on third party voter registration drives, a shorter “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives and new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, the new law would also eliminate some early voting days such as the Sunday before election day.

Torres-Spelliscy told WMNF that the restriction would greatly affect traditions at churches across the state.

“This is a day when communities of worship had organized what is called ‘souls to the polls’ efforts,” she said. “So, on the Sunday before an election you would finish up with church and then sometimes there would be church vans right there — and you would got the early voting location in your Florida community.”

“That is no longer an option under this new law,” she said.

Torres-Spelliscy also believes it would harm people who do not own vehicles and rely on their church for transportation, a population made up of mostly low-income residents and minorities. She said these people might face great difficulty getting to a polling place.

Florida is currently fighting a federal law that requires preclearance of the state’s election law that might affect minority voting rights in certain counties in the state. The state is still waiting for a D.C. court’s ruling on the law.

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