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U.S. Senate to probe Florida voting laws

The chairman of a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee panel that oversees voting will come to Florida in January for a  field hearing on the state's new voting laws. The hearing was requested by Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who has suggested the new laws are the result of a coordinated effort to suppress voter turnout among millions of seniors, young people and minorities in next year’s presidential election.

The new voting rules were signed into law in May by Republican Gov. Rick Scott. The new law curtails the number of early voting days in Florida from 15 to eight, although the total hours available to vote early remain the same. The law also makes it more difficult for third-party groups, such as the League of Women voters, to register voters. 

Nelson also has asked the Justice Department to investigate the new laws. He has repeatedly pointed out that the new, stricter voting laws are in states that make up two-thirds of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency. That includes Florida, where his own re-election -- and the presidential contest -- will mark the first major test of the new laws in Florida.

The hearing is Jan. 27 in Tampa.