The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit against the State of Florida and its Secretary of State alleging violations of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993. The complaint challenges Florida’s recent attempt to systematically purge ineligible voters less than 90 days before a Federal election. The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida in Tallahassee.
The Florida Supreme Court has posted their docket for the 2012 Florida Senate Redistricting case. The Leon County Clerk of the Court has also posted documents from the challenges to the state’s redistricting process for congressional seats. As reported by the AP (via News-Press), hearings will be held this week on both topics.
An update for you on the election litigation related to HB1355 that is ongoing in the State of Florida. The Orlando Sentintel reports that the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (where the State filed its request for preclearance of sections of HB1355 under the Federal Voting Rights Act) views it unlikely that a decision will be reached before Florida’s August 14th primary election. As outlined on this blog in the past, right now there are two voting systems in Florida – one system for 62 counties (the news post-HB1355 system) and one for 5 counties (the pre-HB1355 system).
The Election Law website at the Ohio State University’s Mortiz College of Law has done an excellent job cataloging the major docket filings in the League of Women Voters v. Browning and Florida v. U.S. cases. If you’re up for 585 pages of reading, two depositions in the LWV case are posted at their website.
The litigation related to last year’s changes to Florida’s election laws continues, here are some status updates from Politico and from a website associated with the Plaintiffs in the case: Brennan Center
Many of the filings in the case are also available online at ther Mortiz College of Law site.
And if you need a good laugh – make sure you check out the Washington Post’s coverage of Hank (the cat) for Senate and the SuperPAC that has formed to oppose him.
Two updates this week related to past stories on this blog.
As explained in the Palm Beach Post, the ACLU and League of Woman Voters challenge to the implementation of HB1355 was dismissed as moot and for a lack of standing and ripeness. The District Court found that most of the law had been precleared and that the few remaining sections under review by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia were not being enforced in the five Florida preclearance counties. The District Court held that “[t]he State is allowed to prepare for legislation that has been passed and implemented in non-covered counties.”
Meanwhile, I’ve enjoyed the headlines this week in the Orlando Sentinel’s Central Florida Political Pulse blog: “Florida to federal court: Hurry up already” & “Florida election fight becomes battle royale” – the litigation over the State’s request to preclear the remaining sections of HB1355 (or strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as unconstitutional) continues with the State requesting an expedited review and the District Court allowing 29 interveners to join the case.
A surprising development in the preclearance saga of HB1355, the State has filed a First Amended Complaint seeking to have the court declare the preclearance obligation in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. To recap my past posts on this topic: under the Federal Voting Rights Act, the State of Florida has to “preclear” changes to election laws. Preclearance can be done throught the U.S. Department of Justice or by filing suit in D.C. The State initially sought U.S. DOJ approval, but then withdrew several of the proposed election law changes and filed suit in D.C.
The State now alleges that preclearance itself is “not a rational, congruent, or proportional means of enforcing the Fourteeth and/or Fifteenth Amendments” to the U.S. Constitution. The Secretary of State has published a press release contesting the 1972 process that placed Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe counties under the preclearance requirement, claiming it does not reflect current conditions. The Secretary does not appear to address the fact that there is a process in the Voting Rights Act that would allow a county to end the preclearance obligation. That process is certainly not an easy one, as it also requires a local government to file suit in D.C.
Here’s the quote from the Secretary of State’s news release: “The purpose of filing in the federal district court is to ensure that the changes to Florida’s election law are judged on their merits by eliminating the risk of a ruling impacted by outside influence,… [s]ince the passage of HB 1355, we have seen misinformation surrounding the bill increase. By asking a court to rule on certain aspects of the bill, we are assured of a neutral evaluation based on the facts.” Swift reaction from the bill’s detractors is being reported in an AP story on the Tampa Tribune site, and in a Sun-Sentinel story. It appears from the Secretary of State’s news release that the USDOJ had issues with the HB1355 provisions related to early voting, 3rd party voter registration, petition signature verification, and address changes at the polls.
The St. Pete Times is reporting on a protest yesterday in Tampa related to HB1355. Meanwhile, the AP & Miami Herald are reporting on a hearing today related to a libertarian group challenging Florida’s political committee regulatory structure. The plaintiffs’ counsel has a summary of their suit on their website. It appears to be one of many First Amendment/election law cases inspired by recent Supreme Court decisions.