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Legislator to Scott: Stop fighting Voting Rights Act

State Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation, the House Democratic Leader-designate, has written an open letter to Gov. Rick Scott criticizing the state’s latest effort to undermine the Voting Rights Act. Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning recently filed a complaint in court claiming that the Voting Rights Act’s federal preclearance provision is “unconstitutional.” Five counties in Florida fall under the preclearance rules; the state must receive approval from the federal government in order to implement the new voting laws in those areas. The other 62 counties have already implemented the new elections regulations.

The state is currently awaiting a D.C. court’s approval of controversial parts of the new election laws limiting third-party voter registration drives, shortening the “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, adding new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, and reducing the number of early voting days in the state.

Thurston wrote in a letter today:

Through taxpayer-funded legal shenanigans — including Secretary of State Kurt Browning’s efforts to ignore landmark federal civil rights legislation that protects racial and language minorities in Florida — it is clear that there is a move to suppress the vote.

I firmly disagree with Secretary Browning’s assertion that Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act is no longer required in Florida or the United States.

Accordingly, I am confident that the federal court is likely to block significant sections of the new “voter suppression” elections law that Republicans in the Florida Legislature passed and you signed into law earlier this year. Those unnecessary statutory changes amount to a dangerous threat to the voting rights of Florida’s language and racial minorities, and thankfully the federal courts are reviewing this misguided directive.

Also, what seems comically transparent about these attempts is how they are part of a concerted national effort, spearheaded by conservative, big-business-backed groups like ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council. According to news reports, Florida is among 38 states that have instituted very similar new rules prohibiting same-day registration and early voting on Sundays.

So, it is my opinion that under the false premise of attacking rare cases of voter fraud in our state, you have aligned yourself with those who would twist our democracy for the purpose of suppressing Floridians vote.

Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida, has said that the state’s attempt to undermine the Voting Rights Act is “an admission that they know that the federal courts are likely to find that the Voter Suppression Act passed this year is a serious threat to the voting rights of Florida’s language and racial minorities.”

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