[JURIST] Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning [official website] on Friday announced [press release] that he is seeking approval of portions of the state’s new election law in a federal court in Washington, DC. In June, Florida officials filed an application with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] seeking approval of the law. Browning has withdrawn four sections of the law [Palm Beach Post report] from consideration before the DOJ. The withdrawn sections are considered to be the most controversial sections of the law. Five Florida counties require federal approval before they can administer the laws known as HB 1355 [materials]. According to Browning,
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 . . . Since 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.
Browning is seeking a declaratory judgment from the federal court that the changes to the Florida Election Code [materials] comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [text]. Under the VRA, the changes may not deny or abridge the right to vote based on race, color or membership in a language minority.
The Florida House of Representatives [official website] in May voted [JURIST report] 77-38 to pass the controversial legislation revising the state’s election laws, only hours after the Senate [official website] did so by a 25-13 margin. The bill limits the window for early voting to one week prior to an election, and imposes a series of additional regulations on organizations that enlist new voters, including that they register with the state, submit periodic reports and file voter registration materials within 48 hours of completion. Opponents to the legislation charge that its design is politically motivated to disproportionately affect Democratic constituencies, though its supporters argue that the measures are intended only to reduce election-related expenses and voter fraud. In June, the Florida American Civil Liberties Union [official website] filed suit challenging the election [JURIST report] law changes because they believe it will affect the voting ability of minorities.
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