Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., has announced the details of his subcommittee’s first field hearing into the controversial elections laws passed this year — the event is set to take place in Tampa, Fla., on Fri., Jan. 27. Durbin has also written a letter to Gov. Rick Scott requesting him to testify at the hearing.
Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, will be conducting the investigation, “New State Voting Laws: Barriers to the Ballot?” just days shy of Florida’s GOP presidential primary. The hearing was requested by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., in order to determine whether Florida’s new restrictions were part of “an orchestrated effort to disenfranchise voters.”
Opponents of Florida’s new law have said the laws are aimed at suppressing the vote of minorities, the elderly, disabled and young people for the upcoming 2012 election.
According to a Durbin press release from yesterday:
Among other things, Florida’s new law reduces the number of early voting days from 14 to 8, prohibits early voting on the Sunday before an election, and creates a series of new administrative requirements for individuals and volunteer organizations that register voters. These new requirements and the hefty fines associated with them have led non-partisan organizations like Rock The Vote and the League of Women Voters to indefinitely suspend all voter registration efforts in Florida. Other witnesses will be announced at a later date, but Florida Governor Rick Scott has been asked to testify.
“For more than half of the life of our Republic, a majority of Americans were not allowed to vote. Fortunately, we learned from these mistakes and expanded the franchise and reach of our democracy though six constitutional amendments,” Durbin said. “Worryingly, a spate of recently passed state voting laws seemed designed to restrict voting by making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless, and low income Americans to vote. Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring that our elections are fair and transparent are not Democratic or Republican values, they are American values.”
“The fact is a number of states including Florida have made it harder for some people to vote,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who led a call for the committee to investigate Florida’s law. “We want to know why this is happening.”
Durbin has invited Scott to testify. The senator has written to Scott before asking him “whether the Governor planned to take any action to ensure that the Florida voting law would not disenfranchise Floridians,” according to yesterday’s press release. However, the governor has yet to respond.
Florida is currently waiting for a ruling on controversial aspects of the law from a court in the District of Columbia.