The NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union have sent letters to the federal Justice Department saying a set of changes to Florida election law violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning submitted the documents for preclearance under Section 5 earlier this month. Other groups now get to weigh in with the Justice Department before it makes its final decision.

Hereā€™s a part of what the ACLU said about changes to early voting:

The changes in HB 1355 will significantly reduce the opportunitiesĀ for early voting and have an adverse racial impact. Ā Since Florida initiatedĀ early voting, African Americans constitute a higher percentage of earlyĀ voters in Florida than is their proportion of the voting age population. Ā While African Americans are more likely to use early voting, whites areĀ more likely to cast absentee ballots. Ā For example, in the 2008 generalĀ election, 2.1 million Floridians voted early. Ā African Americans cast 22% ofĀ the early votes, though they comprised only about 13% of the electorate. Ā Nearly 54% of the African American who voted cast ballots before Election Day at early-voting sites. Ā In contrast, only 27% of white voters used theĀ early-voting sites.

In the five Florida counties covered by Section 5 (Collier, Hardee,Ā Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe) African Americans were 12.15% of theĀ voting age population, but were 18.86% of the early voters in the 2008Ā general election. Ā During the first week of early voting, African AmericansĀ were an even larger percentage of early voters ā€“ 20.08% ā€“ in the coveredĀ counties. Ā See Florida Division of Elections Early Voting Report; FloridaĀ Voter Registration File; U.S. Census Bureau. Ā Reducing the days for earlyĀ voting will have an obvious disparate impact upon African Americans.

The full letter can be found here (.pdf). The NAACPā€™s letter can be found here (.pdf).

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