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Public Statements

Sportsmen's Act of 2012 - Motion to Proceed - Continued

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, before the Senator from New Jersey leaves the floor, I just wish to say this Senator's heart goes out to the Senator and his people. We take hurricanes more as a part of our lifestyle in Florida. But when we combine a hurricane in the Northeast at this time of year, during the full Moon, at high tide, in one of the most densely populated coastal areas of the United States, then we definitely have a problem.

This Senator wants to help Senator Lautenberg with what is going to be necessary for the additional funding of FEMA and so forth. I want the Senator to think about an idea that we implemented in Florida, to create, in effect, a reinsurance fund against this kind of catastrophe. We call it the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund.

This was done when I was the elected insurance commissioner--prior to me, and then I had to implement it in the aftermath of the monster hurricane in the 1990s, Hurricane Andrew. I have talked to our colleagues in the Senate about a national catastrophic fund. People in other parts of the country do not think hurricanes are their problem. But what they do not realize is that their taxpayers are picking up the load. Whereas, if we reinsured against this kind of tragedy in a catastrophic fund that would be paid in over time, a little bit from each of the policyholders, then there would not be--there would be this fund that would become a cushion for such a disaster that the Northeastern United States is experiencing at this time and of which we have so often experienced on the gulf coast and the Atlantic coast in the Southeastern United States.

I just wanted to throw that idea out there for the Senator as he speaks so movingly and so eloquently about the suffering of his people. One can just imagine what are going to be the expenses of all the infrastructure that is going to have to be replaced.

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Thanks to the Senator for his big heart, his big heart toward his people.

VOTER SUPPRESSION

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Mr. President, I wish to make a few comments before the chairman of the Judiciary Committee addresses the Senate. I am very happy he is here because he knows about what I am going to talk about, which were the attempts at suppressing the vote in the State of Florida, done a year and a half ago by the State legislature and the Governor. They did a number of things to try to suppress the vote.

The first thing they did was to make it much more difficult to register people to vote. The League of Women Voters has been registering people for 72 years in Florida. They stopped because of the onerous provisions of up to a $1,000 fine that would be upon their members if they did not turn it in within 48 hours. That was thrown out in court as unconstitutional. But it was a year and a half later, with all those registrations not having been done.

But then what they did, they constricted the number of early voting places, constricted the number of early voting days, constricted the number of early voting hours. What do you think was the result? It is what we have seen on TV--the long lines.

I wish to read a passage from the Miami Herald of November 6:

When the polls officially closed at 7 p.m., hundreds of people were still waiting to cast ballots in precincts around South Florida in an election that was marked by long lines and the occasional snafu. Even after the networks called the race for President Obama, people in South Florida remained in line. From Hialeah to Country Walk and to Brickell, people waited as long as 7 hours to vote. In Broward County, voting at some precincts came to a halt when the ballots ran out.

This is the result of the voter suppression by lessening the number of early voting days. When this Senator asked the Governor, because of the long lines during early voting, to extend early voting on the Sunday before the Tuesday election, since it shut off on Saturday, there were long lines then in early voting, the Governor would not do it. We see the result. The Miami Herald continues:

At the South Kendall Community Church, 1,000 people were in line at closing time, and at least 200 still remained three hours later.

That is a determination to vote, and the people do not want their right to cast their ballot taken away. Yet this was the result of voter suppression laws not only in my State but in other States as well. I wish to thank the chairman of the Judiciary Committee because he and his subcommittee, headed by Senator Durbin, came to Tampa to take testimony.

A professor from the University of Florida gave his study and pointed out who used--in the experience of Florida for a decade, who used the Sunday early voting? It was two demographic groups, African Americans and Hispanics. They cut out the Sunday of early voting before the Tuesday election.

Yet with the constricted times and with others being forced to shoehorn in between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on election day, we see the result. As the Miami Herald said, some people waited 7 hours to vote. They were determined that the Governor and the legislature of Florida were not going to take away their right to cast that ballot. And we see again, we had again a close Presidential election in Florida. The President won by 74,000 votes. What if a number of people--such as the lady who waited and waited and she had babysitter problems and after 3 hours she left--what if that had happened to a lot of people?

Well, maybe that was the design of some people in constricting the laws in an America of 2012. We went through this in the civil rights era. The right to vote--as the Senator, our chairman, can tell us, has been said over and over by the courts--it is absolutely essential in a democracy that we have the right to cast our ballot. That is what Dr. King said as well.

Mr. LEAHY. Does the distinguished Senator yield?

Mr. NELSON of Florida. Of course I will.

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Mr. NELSON of Florida. Amen to those comments. I would conclude by saying we ought to be making it easier to vote, not harder to vote. Then, when we get down to conducting an election, we definitely need to do something about the Citizens United Supreme Court 5-to-4 decision, and we can, statutorily. We almost did, lacking one vote breaking the filibuster 3 years ago because it would require the disclosure of those corporations giving the money. If the public knew who was giving the money, then they would be very reluctant. Whereas under the guise, the mask of secrecy, they can give money and try to influence the outcome of an election--as they tried this year.

It has gone out of control, and I know the chairman is going to be at the point of the spear on trying to pass the DISCLOSE Act.

I yield the floor.

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