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Scott asks court to throw out Voting Rights Act protections in Florida

Gov. Rick Scott and Secretary of State Kurt Browning filed a petition in federal court Tuesday asking the court to throw out a section of the Voting Rights Act, one of the vestiges of the Civil Rights movement that has provided an extra layer of protections to minorities voters for the past 45 years. Download State of Florida Amended Complaint - No. 11-cv-01428-CKK-MG-ESH

The federal law requires that all changes to voting and election law in five Florida counties -- Hendry, Collier, Hardee, Hillsborough and Monroe –  be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court because of their history of racial discrimination against voters. The lawsuit alleges that the pre-clearance requirement, first established in 1972, is antiquated and unconstitutional.

“I am hopeful the federal court will come to a quick resolution and approve the remaining provisions of our preclearance submission as nondiscriminatory,” Browning said in a statement. “However, I am frustrated that the reason we are still waiting to implement Florida law in five counties is because of an arbitrary and irrational coverage formula based on data from 40 years ago that takes no account of current conditions.”

Browning's motion was an amendment to a lawsuit filed earlier this year asking a three-judge panel to provide the pre-clearance review of four controversial changes to Florida's voting laws, rather the U.S. Department of Justice. He also asked the court to put expedite its ruling as as not to delay the review of the newly drawn maps after legislative redistricting next year.

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, blasted Scott and Browning for more "taxpayer funded legal shenanigans." He blamed the governor and secretary of state for causing the delay by seeking the court case.

“Scott and Browning have made it clear that they prefer to fight to suppress the vote than follow landmark civil rights laws.  At least now it’s official,'' Simon said. “Today they’ve essentially asked a court to allow them not to follow federal law."