11 Florida Lawmakers Receive Subpoenas in HB1355 Election Law Case

Steve Bousquet, the long-time St. Petersburg Times Tallahassee reporter, has a must read column on the 11 Republican state lawmakers who have been issued subpoenas in a federal lawsuit involving four provisions of Florida’s controversial election law, HB1355. The lawsuit deals with the question of whether the US Justice Department should “preclear” the changes for five Florida counties, as required under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

According to Bosquet, “The lawmakers, most of whom supported the legislation, are ordered to produce by Dec. 14 ‘all documents’ related to the four major election law changes at issue in the case.”

The most interesting comment in the story, I think, is from Representative Jimmy Patronis, a Republican from Panama City,who chaired the House Government Operations Subcommittee, which first considered HB1355.

Patronis, who supported HB1355, admitted to Bousquet that Bay County Supervisor of Elections, Mark Andersen, had urged him not curtail the number of early voting days, saying that Andersen, “told me how much the constituents love early voting.” Of course, these also happen to be Patronis’ constituents. But Patronis obviously had broader Republican Party interests in mind–and not his own constituents’–when he curtailed convenience voting in Florida.

[Incidentally, Bousquet gets it wrong when he says HB1355 keeps the total number of early voting hours at 96. It doesn’t. Under the new law, Supervisors of Elections need only offer a minimum of six hours of early voting a day over the shortened eight day early in-person voting period, for a total of 48 hours, as Politifact Florida points out].

Anyway, the subpoenas from the GOP 11 should produce some interesting reading.

A lack of campaign finance disclosure in Florida? Who knew?!

One of my favorite nonprofits, National Institute on Money in State Politics, has a new report out, “Independent Spending in Florida, 2006-2010,” by Kevin McNellis.

The report finds an “increasing use of independent spending in Florida allowing both large donors and candidates to circumvent the state’s contribution and public financing limits, but poor disclosure laws inhibit analysis of the impact this spending had on the outcome of elections.”

Of course, SCOTUS’ Citizens United v. FEC decision from 2010 is not to blame, as porous disclosure laws in the Sunshine State have been in place for decades.

I’ve written a considerable amount on the topic, including this 2005 article with Beth Garrett,  “Veiled Political Actors and Campaign Disclosure Laws in Direct Democracy,” published in Election Law Journal, and a 2006 coauthored book chapter with Ray La Raja and Susan Orr on party financing in Florida published in the 3rd edition of The State of the Parties, “Surviving BCRA: State Party Finance in 2004.”

Ashley Lopez does a nice job summarizing the report in her column for The Florida Independent. It’s worth the read, as is the full report.

US Supreme Court Denies Stay in Doe v. Reed. Public Disclosure of Ballot Petitions Affirmed

The high court has rejected (once again) efforts by gay marriage foes to block the release of signatures gathered on Referendum 71 petitions.  As I argued in my amicus brief in support of the State of Washington’s long-standing Public Disclosure Act, signatures on petitions to qualify ballot measures should be in the public domain.

The Court’s order is here. Not surprising, Justice Alito favored a stay, again putting him at odds with the other justices.

A DVD of the 138,000 individuals who signed Referendum 71 costs $15 (plus shipping costs). It can be purchased through the State Archives, which can be reached at (360) 586-1492 or research@sos.wa.gov.

I’ve coauthored this paper, forthcoming in Political Behavior, which uses signatures on ballot petitions in Arkansas and Florida to measure the effect of signing a ballot petition on voter turnout. I have another coauthored paper in the works that examines who actually signs ballot petitions.


More Alleged #HB1355 Voter Registration Violations in Florida

The Orlando Sentinel reports.

“Florida teachers no longer are the only ones accused of violating the state’s controversial new voting laws.  According to documents released today by the Florida Department of State (see below), administration officials have opened a total of six cases against individuals suspected of running afoul of new rules that give voter groups just 48 hours to submit paperwork to the state. (The old deadline was 10 days.)”


The new registration rules and 48 hour deadline for third parties conducting voter registration has not received preclearance from the US Justice Department, and is being reviewed by a DC federal court.


Bring on the Personhood Initiatives in 2012

After the huge defeat of the so-called “personhood” ballot initiative in Mississippi yesterday, combined with the defeats in Colorado the past midterm and general elections, there’s good reason for Democrats to be giddy about the possibility that  Personhood USA and its state affiliates might actually qualify similar extreme ballot measures in more states for the 2012 general election.

The Mississippi ballot measure would have given legal “personhood” status to undeveloped zygotes. There’s goes our 7 billion population count…

But seriously, Democrats might think about encouraging Personhood USA co-founder Keith Mason to continue to blame the defeat of Proposition 26 Planned Parenthood and other progressive pro-choice organizations and elected officials. As Mason explained to the Huffington Post:

It’s not because the people are not pro-life. It’s because Planned Parenthood put a lot of misconceptions and lies in front of folks and created a lot of confusion.

Bryan Longworth, director of Personhood Florida, helpfully elaborated:

We’re not discouraged. It shows that the arguments that are being raised by Planned Parenthood, the scare tactics, and the second-guessing of Governor Haley Barbour did play a role.

Taking a page out of the RNC’s playbook when they helped to finance Proposition 209 in California in 1996, perhaps Democrats should actually encourage the qualification of personhood initiatives in Florida, Ohio, and other battleground states that permit direct democracy. Democratic candidates will have a clear wedge issue on which to run against Republicans. Wedge issues on the ballot have worked for Republicans in California and Colorado, as I write about in this 2001 article with Caroline Tolbert, “The Initiative to Party.”  Ballot measures can also have “educative effects” that help Democratic candidates, most notably, the minimum wage issues on the ballot in six states in 2006, as we analyze in our 2010 article, “Direct Democracy, Public Opinion, and Candidate Choice.”

As a scholar of direct democracy, the more initiatives on the ballot, the more to study.

Get Petitioning, Personhood USA!