Court finds Florida Congressional Redistricting Map to be Unconstitutional

A Leon County Circuit Court judge issued a final judgment in the cases of Romo v. Detzner & Bondi and The League of Women Voters of Florida, et al. v. Detzner finding “that districts 5 and 10 were drawn in contravention of the constitutional mandates of Article III, Section 20, thus making the redistricting map unconstitutional as drawn.”

The extensive docket of the case is online, you will likely need to scroll down to “2012 CA 000412: Romo, Rene vs Scott, Rick.”

The map of District 5 is highlighted below:

District 5

 

The map of District 10 is highlighted below:

District 10

The maps are published online by the Florida Senate.

The provisions of the Florida Constitution at issue were Article III, Sections 20 and 21, related to redistricting.

 

11th Circuit Court of Appeals: 2012 Florida Voter Purge violated NVRA

A three judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has concluded that Florida’s 2012 effort to remove ineligible voters was “an attempt to systematically remove names from the voter rolls in violation of the 90 Day Provision” contained in the National Voter Registration Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A).

This order reverses the holding reported on this blog back in October, and comes after the State has apparently suspended their current systematic removal program.

The battle over absentee ballots

Please forgive the lack of posts over the last few months, as my wife and I were a bit distracted by the arrival of our son!

Related to the political debate over the Florida 13th Congressional District Special Election, the issue of the use of absentee ballots became a flashpoint.  The two primary sources documents involved, are the Secretary of State’s Directive (the only directive of 2013, and the only one originated by the current officeholder) and a letter from the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, written in response.  News reports state that the two parties spoke and the Secretary decided to not pursue the issue further, but as of this writing the Directive remains in place.  What was in dispute was whether a Supervisor of Elections could have voters drop off their absentee ballot at a remote location that was not a typical elections office.  The State argued that “drop boxes” were not permitted.  Pinellas County argued the “drop boxes” were staffed by Deputy Supervisors of Elections, an audit trail was maintained, and the their goal was ensure that voters had more opportunities to participate in the process.

Legislation related to the issue was filed for this current legislative session, but news reports indicate the bill is presently on hold.  The legislative staff analysis cites the dispute and indicates that generally other Supervisors of Elections support their Pinellas colleague.  Putting aside the partisan accusations and arguements, the heart of the issue appears to be a very typical conflict in Florida- the issue of state control versus local home rule.

“Project Integrity” or Voter Purge? State begins new voter roll review effort.

The Secretary of State today begins a series of roundtable discussions with local supervisors of elections related to the State’s plan to renew efforts to systematically remove individuals from the voting roles that the State believes are non-citizens – an effort that the State has labeled “Project Integrity.”  Past efforts by the State were led to controversary over the accuracy of the State’s data and lists of voters and were challenged in part under the section of the Voting Rights Act since deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Shelby County, Alabama, v. Holder.  (See the recent dismissal of the prior action, published online by The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law) 

Stories from Time Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times provide background on the issue, while a News-Press story highlights the concerns of local supervisors of elections. 

In their press release, the State provides this schedule of meetings:

  •  October 3rd, Bay County Area Supervisor Roundtable, 1:00 PM CST 830 West 11th Street, Panama City 32401
  • October 4th, Duval County Area Supervisor Roundtable, 11:00 AM EST 105 East Monroe Street, Jacksonville 32202
  • October 7th, Orange County Area Supervisor Roundtable, 1:00 PM EST 119 West Kaley Street, Orlando 32806
  • October 8th, Sarasota County Area Supervisor Roundtable, 10:00 AM EST 101 S. Washington Blvd., Sarasota 34236
  • October 9th, Broward County Area Supervisor Roundtable, 10:30 AM EST 115 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale 33301

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act – impacts 5 Florida Counties

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.

Governor signs CS/HB 7013 – bill amends Florida Election Code

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.