Apparently, Miami-Dade County’s Supervisor of Elections office has decided that the Governor will be signing HB 1355 into law, as they have cancelled early voting for this coming Sunday. In response, Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Marcelo Llorente has filed suit seeking to reinstate Sunday’s early voting.
If the Governor does sign the law, it will be subject to preclearance review under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. In 1998, the Division of Election issued an opinion (98-13) dealing with a preclearance issue related to changes to the election code. In that opinion, the Division opined that statewide changes to election laws “should not be enforced in any county until precleared by the Department of Justice or the courts.”
Here is the heart of the opinion discussing a 1998 law:
“Thus, to again summarize, sections 9, 10, 14, 16, the portion of section 20 which provides that an
absentee ballot is illegal if it does not include the social security number information and correct
witness information, and subsection (3) of section 26 have been finally determined by the United
States Attorney General to be unenforceable with respect to the five preclearance counties of Collier,
Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe. Letter to Florida Attorney General Robert A. Butterworth
from Elizabeth Johnson, Chief, Voting Section, Civil Rights Division, United States Department of
Justice, August 10, 1998.1 Application of new election laws are contingent upon preclearance by the
Justice Department pursuant to the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Thus, the effective date of any such
laws are delayed until such preclearance is obtained.
As a result, with respect to your second question and for the reasons set forth below, it is the opinion
of the Division of Elections that all 67 Florida counties should instruct absentee voters, issue absentee
ballots, count voted absentee ballots, canvass absentee ballots, and require polling place identifications
pursuant to the 1997 Florida Election Code, and not penalize persons who are determined to have
witnessed more than five absentee ballots as provided in subsection (3) of section 26, chapter 98-129
Laws of Florida, for the entire 1998 election cycle. To do otherwise, in our opinion, has the potential
to cause widespread voter confusion, affect the integrity of the elections process, impair uniform
application of the election laws and could violate Federal and State laws and both the Florida and
United States Constitutions. See, U.S. Const. amend XIV and XV, Art. I, §§ 1 and 2, Fla. Const., Art.
III, § 11(a), Fla. Const., 42 U.S.C. § 1973c (1982), 42 U.S.C. 1973(a), (b) (1982), § 97.012(1), Fla.