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Court rejects state's request to expedite voting law challenge

A panel of federal judges today rejected a request by Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning to expedite a ruling on the lawsuit challenging the state's changes to its voting laws. Download Fla v USA 55 Order on motion to expedite

"We're disappointed that the court could not accommodate our schedule," said Browning's spokesman, Chris Cate. "We look forward to the opportunity for making the case than none of Florida's election laws are discriminatory."
 
The reason the state is pressing the federal government for a quick resolution is the accelerated political calendar. A panel of legislative appointees has set Florida's presidential preference primary for Jan. 31, 2012, but the last day that people can register to vote to be able to cast ballots in that election will be Jan. 3, 2012.
 
If the legal issues surrounding the election law rewrite aren't settled by then, the state will be in the awkward position of not having major changes to the laws pre-cleared as they affect five counties: Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe.

From the ACLU's press release:

A decision this afternoon by the Federal District in the District of Columbia denied the state’s request for an expedited schedule to hear whether the state’s Voter Suppression Act complies with the federal Voting Rights Act and can be implemented statewide.  The Voter Suppression Act is already being implemented in 62 of Florida’s 67 counties.

In denying the state’s request for a quick hearing and decision, the federal three judge panel cited the state’s own repeated delays in getting the law approved and concurrent decision to move forward the Presidential Primary date to January. The Court cited the state’s three week delay in seeking approval of the changes from the Department of Justice, failure of the state to seek expedited review, removing provisions of the law from DOJ review after 50 of the 60 days had expired, filing in federal court, and amending their filing to challenge the Voting Rights Act as examples that any time pressure for a decision was caused by the state itself. 

Moreover, the Court found that the expedited schedule proposed by the state would not afford the federal government and interveners including the ACLU enough time to present their case. Because Governor Scott and Secretary of State Browning moved ahead to implement the law without waiting for federal approval, one major result of the ruling is that Florida will conduct its January Presidential Preference Primary with two sets of election laws in the state. 

Below is a statement from Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida on today’s decision:  “The Court was right to say this is a mess created by the Governor and the Legislature. In denying their request for a ‘drive by hearing’, the Court essentially said that the state’s failure to take this issue seriously until recently is no one’s fault but their own.

  “Thanks to Governor Scott and Secretary Browning, Florida is in position yet again to turn our elections into a mockery by conducting an important, nationally significant election under two different sets of election rules depending on where you live.  Under the system which will be in place now, a voter in Pinellas will vote under different rules than a voter across the bridge in Hillsborough.

“The issues at stake in this case are whether the state will be able to stack the deck and suppress the vote for 2012 or whether the state will be forced to follow federal law.  “This Voter Suppression Act needs a full, complete hearing to see whether it’s legal and complies with federal law. We’ve said all along that it’s not legal and that it is designed to suppress the votes of racial and language minorities in Florida.”

Comments

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Brenda

Governor Scott has made our state look like we are a bunch of idiots. The bad press just keeps coming. Every day its another story about how brainless governor and other elected republicans in power have done something wrong or messed up. You people that keep voting for these corrupt republicans should have your heads examined.

Liberty27

This is nothing new. Florida has been a leader in this country for voter suppression for years now. Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi have helped to galvanize this shameful record.

Justice William O. Douglas, our longest and most quoted Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court once wrote, “The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.” He also said, “A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to dictatorship of the right or the left.”

Florida is not handing out many second chances these days. One strike and you are out it appears in the state of Florida. Attorney General Pam Bondi has gone on record by saying that a felon must earn these rights back. How has that been working out? If you commit a felony in Florida you stand a very good chance of losing your civil rights for life. Opponents of this statement say that this is just not true. Tell that to the 900,000 men and women in Florida who continue striving to regain their civil rights. In 2011 only 78 ex-felons had their civil rights restored by their Executive Board of Clemency out of approximately 900,000. The criteria for earning these rights back must be pretty high. It is clear that the true intention of Governor Rick Scott’s administration is not structured towards helping give a fresh new beginning at reestablishing these men and women back in society.

In Florida the completion of a sentence passed down by a court of law, which establishes due process, is not enough. There are about 5.5 million men and women in our nation who have been disenfranchised long after due process of the law has been completed. Florida is home to about one fifth of them. The number of disenfranchised Americans keeps growing every year. They are being told now they must earn their rights back by Governor Scott and Pam Bondi even after they have completed their sentences and probation. This is one of the major causes of the high recidivism in Florida. It continues to be higher than the national average. Florida’s recidivism rate, as reported by their own DOC records in 2010, was at 51.8%. The national average is only around 33%.

There are estimated to be about 37,000 inmates released from prison each year in Florida. Most return to the streets broken and bankrupt. They are considered citizens but yet without the rights of an American citizen. These exiled Americans are left in limbo without any viable option other than to struggle for their continued existence in just meeting their basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Their survival is compounded by an already unstable economy. Out of the approximate 37,000 in-mates released each year, about half are recycled back through the prison system that same year. Most are unable to make it on the outside. Lack of opportunity is the predominate reason for this problem. The deck is stacked against them before they even get out and there are very few programs in place to help them become reestablished. Most of Florida’s DOC money goes toward maintaining and growing an already over populated prison system. The Florida Department of Corrections budget for 2011 was $2.3 billion. Less than 1% of this was spent on rehabilitation and reintegration programs. Are we throwing good money after bad by feeding a broken correctional system that is not doing anything to help alleviate this crisis? What are they correcting? Reducing recidivism would be a great start. Is Tallahassee leading or reacting to this problem? I believe Florida and the people of Florida are better than this.

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