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Controversy over Elections Bill Grows

May 18th, 2011 by Anna Laura Rehwinkel

Governor Rick Scott is expected to sign a bill that would drastically change Florida’s election laws. The bill would limit early voting, make it harder to register voters and set a deadline for voters to update their registration information. As Whitney Ray tells us, the US Justice Department has been asked to review the changes.

Last year Carley Sattler helped register hundreds of voters at Florida State University.

“A lot of students weren’t even aware that there were elections,” said Sattler.

Carley is the Chapter Chair of FSU PIRG… and regularly participates in voter registration drives. But she may stop signing up voters because of changes in Florida’s elections laws.

“I wouldn’t be shocked at all if a lot of organizations stopped doing registration. The fees were scary enough the past semesters, now fees and deadlines are even more restrictive,” said Sattler.

The changes shorten the time voter registration groups have to turn in forms from 10 days to two… For each form turned in late… a 50 dollar fine would be levied.

It would also force volunteers to registrar with the state before signing up voters. Those changes have volunteer groups like the League of Women Voters crying foul.

“That could be an undo burden for people who really do this as a labor of love, something they are committed to and see as their civic duty,” said League Spokeswoman Jessica Lowe-Minor.

Other changes include shortening early voting from two weeks to one and require voters who change their address 30 days before Election Day to cast provisional ballots.

The controversy surrounding the changes has already reached Washington… A delegation of Democratic Congressmen sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for a review. The Justice Department responded with this letter promising to “Carefully Consider” the changes to see if they violate the Voter Rights Act.

Supporters of the changes say it’s all about fraud prevention…. But there’s only been 31 reports of voter fraud in Florida since 2008… and in only four of those cases arrest warrants were issued.

Besides third party voter registration groups and supervisors of elections… Democrats oppose the bill. They say the changes would have a major impact on their voters… because Democrats are more likely to voter early. They’re also more likely to register to vote with a third party registration group.

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