The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has notified the panel currently reviewing Florida’s voting law that the federal agency is opposed to a provision that complicates the process by which voters may change their registered addresses on Election Day.
Earlier this month, the DOJ said it was interested in seeking a trial into the state’s new voting law. Officials filed papers with the three-judge
panel reviewing the law opposing provisions that reduce the number of early voting days and ban early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. Officials are also concerned with the law’s onerous restrictions on third-party voter registration.
Just yesterday, the DOJ announced it was also opposed to a change-of-address provision in the law.
The Associated Press reports:
The Justice Department on Tuesday notified a federal court in Washington, D.C., that it believes a change-of-address provision also is discriminatory.
It previously had informed the court it would be opposing a reduction in the number of early voting days and new restrictions on voter registration drives. The newly challenged provision requires voters to cast provisional ballots if they change their addresses from another county at the polls on Election Day.
Critics of Florida’s voting law have called it a concerted “voter suppression” effort aimed at hindering access to the polls for minorities, students and low-income voters during the 2012 election. Florida’s law is just one of a slew of efforts that could curb voter turnout and, experts warn, could greatly affect the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.
The law is currently being reviewed because five counties in Florida (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe) are protected under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Section 5 requires federal preclearance for any new elections laws impacting minorities.
The DOJ was originally supposed to investigate some of the more controversial aspects of the law. This past August, however, Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning withdrew some of the more controversial portions of the bill from review by the DOJ.
Instead, a court panel in Washington, D.C. will decide whether the four most controversial provisions– which place onerous restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, shorten the “shelf life” of signatures collected for ballot initiatives, complicate the process by which voters may change their registered addresses on election day and reduce the number of early voting days– violate the voting rights of minorities.
Despite the state’s effort to side-step the DOJ, the agency is now playing the only role it can by submitting its opinion to the judges in charge of making a ruling.
Research by a voting expert in the state has shown that the law has already negatively affected early voting turnout and voter registration in the short time that it has been implemented in 62 counties in the state.
A court in Tallahassee is currently considering a challenge to the law by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote, Florida PIRG, and others. The groups filed a lawsuit this past December charging that the law “unconstitutionally and unlawfully burdens their efforts, and the efforts of other individuals and community-based groups, to encourage civic engagement and democratic participation by assisting Florida citizens in registering to vote and exercising their fundamental right to vote.”