As Florida heads toward a hotly contested governor’s race in November, Attorney General Eric Holder warned Gov. Rick Scott that the feds are "carefully monitoring" voter access in the state.
"I am deeply disturbed that during your tenure, your state has repeatedly added barriers to voting and restricted access to the polls," Holder wrote in a July 21 letter to Scott.
Holder recapped changes in state election law during Scott’s tenure, as well as the state’s attempt to purge noncitizen voters from the rolls, disenfranchisement of felons and a dispute about where voters can return absentee ballots in Pinellas County.
When the Tampa Bay Times blogged about the letter Aug. 1, Scott’s campaign dismissed Holder’s letter as a "bizarre attempt to help Charlie Crist" -- Scott’s likely Democratic opponent in November and an ally of President Barack Obama.
Holder and Scott’s campaign made some dueling claims about the state’s early voting law.
Holder wrote that 2011 changes in state law "significantly narrowed the early voting window" and that a federal three-judge panel concluded it threatened a "dramatic reduction in a form of voting disproportionately used by African-Americans."
Holder wrote: "Accordingly, the court refused to approve reduced early voting hours with respect to the five counties in Florida covered by the preclearance provision in the Voting Rights Act."
That led the Scott campaign to point the finger at Holder, for allowing the 2011 early voting law to be implemented: "In fact, Attorney General Eric Holder’s own Justice Department precleared the voting changes in the 2011 law that governed the 2012 general election in Florida," Scott campaign manager Melissa Sellers wrote.
At a campaign event in St. Petersburg on the same day, Scott made a similar claim:
"In 2011, we changed our voting laws, and they were precleared by the Justice Department ... ."
Since Scott, a Republican, is on the ballot this year, we decided to fact-check his statement that the Justice Department approved the early voting changes.
On first blush, the claims from Holder and Scott sound like they are in conflict: A federal court refused to allow the reduction in the early voting schedule, but Holder signed off on the changes. We found that Scott left out some important steps along the way to implementing that law. Turn to PolitiFact Florida for the full story.