Florida NAACP leaders voiced disappointment Thursday with the Supreme Court decision striking down the heart of the Voting Rights Act, and they promised to hold Gov. Rick Scott, state legislators and members of Congress accountable for any new changes in state voting laws.
"They can't be left alone without our input," said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Chapters, in a conference call with reporters. The right to vote "impacts everything we do. It really guides our whole life."
Without federal oversight of election procedures in Florida, she said, it's more important than ever for groups such as the NAACP to keep elected officials under a microscope.
Tuesday's 5-4 decision invalidated the decades-old coverage formula used to ensure that any changes in voting procedures do not discriminate against minorities in five Florida counties: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry. NAACP special counsel David Honig said the fact that there were "eight-hour" waits to vote at some Miami-Dade precincts last fall underscores the need for federal oversight of Florida elections.
"Someone made the deliberate decision not to have enough voting machines. That's a tactic that dates back to the early 1900s," Honig said. He also cited the problem-plagued efforts by Scott and other Florida officials to "purge" the Florida voting rolls of non-citizens in 2012.
The civil rights' activists comments came on the eve of a hearing in Miami Friday by President barack Obama's Commission on Election Administration. Among the scheduled witnesses at the hearing will be representatives of The Advancement Project, a voting rights group that produced a study showing that black and Hispanic voters faced longer wait times at the polls in Florida than white voters did.
The study, by University of Florida political scientist Daniel Smith and colleague Michael Herron, examined data from 5,196 of the approximately 6,100 precincts that Florida used in the November 2012 general election. The study also found that minority voters were more likely to cast provisional ballots than whites. The Advancement Project's study can be found here.
After Tuesday's decision, Scott told reporters: "I want to make sure there's no racial discrimination in any of our elections."
-- Steve Bousquet