Gov. Rick Scott (center) with Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park (left) and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island (Pic via flgov.com)

The day before a U.S. Senate judiciary committee will hold a public hearing on Florida’s controversial new elections law in Tampa, a progressive group announced that it had collected 11,289 signatures for a petition denouncing what the group calls the “Voter Suppression Act of 2011.”

According to Progress Florida, the group that collected the signatures around the state:

“The chilling effect that HB 1355 has already had on teachers helping eligible high school students register to vote is a prime example of the negative impact this law has had on the ability of specific demographic groups, including young people and minorities, to participate in the voting process,” said Progress Florida executive director Mark Ferrulo.

The petitions, directed to the leadership of the Florida Legislature, were collected in November 2011 when it first came to light that Florida teachers were being investigated and facing fines for non-compliance of arbitrary and onerous new “third party” voter registration requirements imposed by HB 1355.

A study released last fall by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University estimates that nationwide the new voter suppression laws, including Florida’s, could discourage more than 5 million eligible voters from casting ballots in 2012.

“Gov. Rick Scott’s refusal to testify at today’s hearing, as requested by Sen. Dick Durbin, Chairman of the Subcommittee, illustrates that Gov. Scott is complicit in Florida being regarded as the Voter Suppression Capital of America,” added Ferrulo.

The group says the petition will be included as “part of the official record” of the hearing set for this afternoon.

The hearing was requested by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who asked for an investigation in order to determine whether Florida’s new restrictions were part of “an orchestrated effort to disenfranchise voters.” Scott was invited to testify, but so far has declined.

The hearing will be taking place while Florida waits for a ruling on controversial aspects of its elections law from a court in the District of Columbia and while the state is days away from a GOP presidential primary.

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