Today, the Democratic congressional delegation of Florida united to express their serious concerns over H.B. 1355, the radical and far-reaching overhaul of Floridians' voting rights currently awaiting Governor Rick Scott's signature. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-19), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-23), Corrine Brown (FL-3), Kathy Castor (FL-11), Frederica Wilson (FL-17), Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) request an evaluation of the bill to determine possible violations of the Voting Rights Act. The Department of Justice has the authority to review state law and block implementation if provisions are determined to disenfranchise voters.
"The role of government should never be to curtail the registration of newly eligible voters or hinder Americans from exercising the most fundamental democratic right afforded by our Constitution," the delegation writes. "We are confident that any honest examination of this legislation will determine that it is in clear violation of the Voting Rights Act."
H.B. 1355 contains unprecedented restrictions of the voting rights of Floridians. It all but eradicates voter registration drives conducted by volunteer-based, third party groups like the League of Women Voters, the Boy Scouts of America, and the NAACP. The legislation will also force dozens of legitimate voters to cast provisional ballots by eliminating a decades-old law enabling Floridians with proper identification to update their names and addresses at the polls due to a military family move, marriage, or divorce. H.B. 1355 also slashes the early voting period from 14 days to 6, posing a special challenge to working Floridians and elderly voters who cannot wait on the long lines of Election Day. Additionally, the bill places new restrictions on the validity of absentee ballots, determining them illegal if signatures do not closely enough match those on older state documents.