The United States Supreme Court, in the case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, Attorney General, Et al., ruled that Section 4(b) of the Federal Voting Rights Act is unconstitutional. Section 4(b) contained the formula that placed a jurisdiction under the mandate of Section 5. Section 5 requires local jurisdictions to submit their proposed changes to voting-related laws to either the U.S. Department of Justice or the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia for preclearance before such laws can go into effect. While the Supreme Court allowed Section 5 to stand, it appears that its effect has been suspended unless Congress acts to replace it.
Section 4(b) provides (See: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/vot/42usc/subch_ia.php#anchor_1973b):
- (b) Required factual determinations necessary to allow suspension of compliance with tests and devices; publication in Federal Register
The provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a State which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1964, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 per centum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1, 1964, or that less than 50 per centum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November 1964. On and after August 6, 1970, in addition to any State or political subdivision of a State determined to be subject to subsection (a) of this section pursuant to the previous sentence, the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall apply in any State or any political subdivision of a State which (i) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1968, any test or device, and with respect to which (ii) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 per centum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1, 1968, or that less than 50 per centum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November 1968. On and after August 6, 1975, in addition to any State or political subdivision of a State determined to be subject to subsection (a) of this section pursuant to the previous two sentences, the provisions of subsection (a) of this section shall apply in any State or any political subdivision of a State which (i) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1972, any test or device, and with respect to which (ii) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 per centum of the citizens of voting age were registered on November 1, 1972, or that less than 50 per centum of such persons voted in the Presidential election of November 1972.
A determination or certification of the Attorney General or of the Director of the Census under this section or under section 1973d or 1973k of this title shall not be reviewable in any court and shall be effective upon publication in the Federal Register.
This formula was reauthorized by Congress repeatedly, most recently in 2006 for an additional 25 years. The counties that were subject to preclearance review under Section 5 in Florida because of this formula were: Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry.
Florida newspaper articles on the case include TBT, Miami Herald, News-Press. The Attorney General issued a press release in response.
The Florida Governor has signed CS/HB 7013, making it Chapter 2013-57, Laws of Florida. The bill had passed the House by a 115-1 margin and the Senate by 27-13. Included in the bill are the following changes:
- Supervisors of Elections must now post an “elections preparation report” three months before each general (November) election.
- Allows individuals who move to another county but haven’t yet changed their voter registration to vote a regular ballot if the new county uses an electronic database as their precinct register.
- Allows counties that must publish a multi-language ballot to ask the U.S. Department of Justice for permission to send out single-language ballots for each minority language.
- Limits constitutional amendment ballot summaries proposed by joint resolution of the Legislature to 75 words or less, matching the limit imposed on other groups.
- Allows for investigation of election equipments vendors, requires disclosure of known “defects,” and allows for civil penalties of $25,000 per defect, plus costs, to be imposed.
- Changes the process for post-election audits by county canvassing boards.
- Requires that absentee ballots be mailed to the person’s on-file address or requires that a signed, written request be filed if the ballot is to be mailed to a family member or guardian.
- Allows for delivery of an absentee ballot on election day to a voter or their immediate family member only if there is an “emergency, to the extent that the elector will be unable to go to his or her assigned polling place.” An affidavit will be required.
- For overseas absentee voters, it expands the existing 10 day window for ballot to arrive after election day from just federal races to now include all races on the ballot.
- Expands early voting locations to now also include: “fairground, civic center, courthouse, county commission building, stadium, convention center, government-owned senior center, or government-owned community center.” Also allows for additional sites if there is a part of the county that lacks an authorized type of facility.
- Sets the year 2012 as the standard for the minimum number of early voting sites in a county.
- Increases the minimum number of early voting hours per day from six to eight. Allows supervisors to decide to have more early voting days: “early voting may be offered at the discretion of the supervisor of elections on the 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, or 2nd day before an election that contains state or federal races for at least 8 hours per day, but not more than 12 hours per day.”
- Allows a voter, until 5 p.m. the day before election day, to “cure” their previously returned but unsigned absentee ballot by affidavit.
- Expands no solicitation zone to include a supervisor of elections’ office that prints absentee ballots.
- Sets an alternate canvassing board member appointment process.
- Alters the Presidential Preference Primary and allows its date to be set by party rule. Deletes the reference to a “Presidential Preference Primary Date Selection Committee.”
- Makes it a first degree misdemeanor to accept, “a pecuniary or other benefit in exchange for distributing, ordering, requesting, collecting, delivering, or otherwise physically possessing more than two absentee ballots per election in addition to his or her own ballot or a ballot belonging to an immediate family member.”
The Division of Elections has posted a memo sent to the Supervisors of Elections about the changes.
TBT and The Orlando Sentinel are reporting that the Florida Senate passed an amended version of the House election law proposal. The Senate’s action included passing an amendment that would allow the Secretary of State to “place a supervisor of elections in noncompliant status pursuant to s. 98.025,” apparently angering some Supervisors of Elections in attendance. The new 98.025 would read:
98.025 Supervisors of elections; noncompliant status.—
49 (1) The Secretary of State may place a supervisor of
50 elections in noncompliant status whenever that supervisor does
51 not perform one or more of the following:
52 (a) Timely file any report required by the Florida Election
54 (b) Ensure that ballots are distributed, collected,
55 counted, and reported in accordance with applicable law.
56 (c) Safeguard and account for voted ballots.
57 (d) Follow any statute that imposes a duty or
58 responsibility on a supervisor of elections.
59 (e) Follow rules adopted by the Department of State
60 concerning the implementation of any provision of the Florida
61 Election Code.
62 (2) The Secretary of State shall submit the written
63 decision to place or remove a supervisor of elections in
64 noncompliant status to the affected supervisor and provide a
65 copy of the decision to the Governor and the chair of the board
66 of county commissioners in the supervisor’s county.
67 (3) While a supervisor of elections is in noncompliant
68 status, the supervisor is not entitled to receive the special
69 qualification salary available pursuant to s. 145.09. When
70 removed from noncompliant status, if otherwise eligible to
71 receive the special qualification salary, the supervisor is
72 entitled to a pro rata share of the special qualification salary
73 based on the remaining period of the year.
74 (4) The Secretary of State may remove a supervisor from
75 noncompliant status after 1 year of being placed in such status,
76 provided that:
77 (a) The supervisor has complied with any of the duties
78 identified in subsection (1) while in a noncompliant status.
79 (b) The supervisor has completed during each year while in
80 noncompliant status a course of continuing education pursuant to
81 s. 145.09 as prescribed by the Division of Elections; and
82 (c) The supervisor has taken and received while in
83 noncompliant status a grade of 90 percent or greater on a
84 uniform statewide open-book examination testing the supervisor’s
85 knowledge of the Florida Election Code. The Florida State
86 Association of Supervisors of Elections shall annually develop
87 the examination, but the examination shall be approved and
88 administered by the Division of Elections.
89 (5) If a supervisor has been in noncompliant status for 3
90 consecutive years, the Secretary of State shall provide written
91 notice of such event to the Governor for consideration of
92 exercising the Governor’s authority to suspend the supervisor
93 pursuant to s. 7, Art. IV of the State Constitution.
94 (6) The decision of the Secretary of State to place a
95 supervisor of elections in noncompliant status or remove a
96 supervisor of elections from noncompliant status is exempt from
97 the provisions of chapter 120.
98 (7) This section is in addition to, and not exclusive of,
99 the authority of the Governor to suspend and remove a supervisor
100 of elections pursuant to s. 7, Art. IV of the State
The Florida Senate’s Committee on Community Affairs approved a Committee Substitute for SB 600 amending the Florida Election Code today on a 5-3 party-line vote. According to news reports, proposed amendments were also defeated by a similar vote.
The current version of SB600 would:
- Require Supervisors of Elections to submit an “election preparation report” before each general election.
- Limit constitutional amendment ballot language proposed by the Legislature to 75 words in length.
- Alter the process for voting equipment purchases and dealing with “defects.”
- Provides for an additional automated audit of the votes cast in an election.
- Requiring that absentee ballots propvided on the day of an election only be given in cases of “emergency.”
- Brings back the former requirement of a witness signature on absentee ballots.
- Expands potential early voting sites.
- Expands the number of optional early voting days.
- Alters the canvassing process for absentee ballots.
- Allows for a cure process for unsigned submitted absentee ballots.
- Allows for alternative canvassing board members.
- Limits the term “immediate family,” for purposes of obtaining an absentee ballot, to spouse, parent, child, grandparent, sibling, or spouse’s sibling.