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Congressional Dems want feds to review Fla. voting laws

Six Democratic members of Congress from Florida want the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to hold a hearing on changes to state election laws enacted by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott last year.

One of those changes -- a reduction in early voting days from 14 to eight -- is cited as the cause of extremely long lines at early voting sites, especially in Miami-Dade. But President Barack Obama won Florida for a second time, in part due to a stronger showing in Dade this time in comparison to 2008.

In their letter, the members of Congress cite recent statements by former Gov. Charlie Crist (an ex-Republican who may run for governor as a Democrat) and former state Republican Party chairman Jim Greer (awaiting trial on felony charges) that the reason for the voting law changes was to "intentionally suppress Democratic turnout." That assertion is based on a recent article in The Palm Beach Post, which also quoted a Republican campaign consultant, Wayne Bertsch, as saying that a surge in early voting turnout in 2008 "sent a chill down our spines" at the Republican Party of Florida.

"The law limited access to the polls for minorities, seniors and college students," the members of Congress wrote. "We are extremely concerned over the integrity of this law and the justification for its implementation. Therefore, we believe that a hearing must be held as soon as possible."

The letter was signed by U.S. Reps. Alcee Hastings, D-Miramar; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston; Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton; Corrine Brown, D-Jacksonville; Kathy Castor, D-Tampa; and Frederica Wilson, D-Miami.

-- Steve Bousquet