Florida works to resolve voter law suits

Aug. 20, 2012 at 10:26 AM
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Aug. 20 (UPI) -- Florida is trying to resolve more than six dozen challenges to its voter law before November, hoping to avoid Election Day controversy, an observer said.

In battleground states, voter law changes have resulted in charged legal battles over which ballots will be counted in tight campaigns for the White House and Congress, The Washington Post reported Sunday.

"Florida is desperately trying not to be the next Florida," said Richard L. Hasen, an expert on election law, referring the 2000 election between Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Republican challenger and eventual winner George W. Bush.

Sponsors of the voting law changes a more reliable system would be created to combat voter fraud. Opponents counter it is a ploy to suppress voters who traditionally favor Democrats.

A panel of federal judges addressed one of Florida's legal battles last week, ruling new limits on early voting would not be enacted in five counties designated by the Voting Rights Act.

Other challenges include one in Miami by minority groups who sued over whether the state's plan to purge voter rolls of non-citizens may mean legitimate voters losing their rights. Plaintiffs in Tampa also challenged the purge, citing a different section of the federal law.

Among the court actions filed in Tallahassee, is one concerning a change that prompted the League of Women Voters to halt voter-registration efforts because they feared they could be charged criminally, the Post said.

In Duval County, where African Americans are a larger percentage of voters than in any of Florida's other larger counties, Elder Lee E. Harris joined a lawsuit that would require the state to continue to allow early voting on the Sunday before the election.

The 2011 law reduced the number of days that counties may offer early voting from 14 to eight and reduced the minimum number of hours polls must be open from 96 to 48. While it did require all counties offer Sunday voting, a change from optional, but specified that the Sunday could not be the one falling two days before the election.

"Sunday in the African American community is traditionally our day of rest, and once that early voting ... caught on here, it became easier for people to get involved in voting," Harris said. "Early voting in the minority community paid off."

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