Below is a Press Release from Senator Durbin’s Office

January 12, 2012

Durbin Announces Field Hearing on Florida Voting Law

January 27th Field Hearing Will Be Subcommittee’s First

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – US Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, today announced a field hearing examining the impact of Florida’s new voting law, which restricts early voting and makes it harder for third-party groups to help people register to vote. The hearing will be held on January 27th, just days before the Florida Presidential Primary, at the Hillsborough County Courthouse in downtown Tampa.

 Among other things, Florida’s new law reduces the number of early voting days from 14 to 8, prohibits early voting on the Sunday before an election, and creates a series of new administrative requirements for individuals and volunteer organizations that register voters.  These new requirements and the hefty fines associated with them have led non-partisan organizations like Rock The Vote and the League of Women Voters to indefinitely suspend all voter registration efforts in Florida.  Other witnesses will be announced at a later date, but Florida Governor Rick Scott has been asked to testify.

“For more than half of the life of our Republic, a majority of Americans were not allowed to vote. Fortunately, we learned from these mistakes and expanded the franchise and reach of our democracy though six constitutional amendments,” Durbin said. “Worryingly, a spate of recently passed state voting laws seemed designed to restrict voting by making it harder for millions of disabled, young, minority, rural, elderly, homeless, and low income Americans to vote. Protecting the right of every citizen to vote and ensuring that our elections are fair and transparent are not Democratic or Republican values, they are American values.”

“The fact is a number of states including Florida have made it harder for some people to vote,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL), who led a call forthe committee to investigate Florida’s law. “We want to know why this is happening.”

Over thirty states have new or pending changes to current voting laws. States seeking to change their laws have passed or proposed provisions that significantly reduce the number of early voting days, require voters to show restrictive forms of photo identification before voting and make it harder for volunteer organizations to register new voters. Supporters of these laws argue that they will reduce the risk of voter fraud. The overwhelming evidence, however, indicates that voter fraud is virtually non-existent and that these new laws will make it harder for hundreds of thousands of elderly, disabled, minority, young, rural, and low-income Americans to exercise their right to vote.

The Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights held a hearing on these new state voting laws in September of last year. More information on that hearing can be found here. Following this hearing, Senator Durbin sent a letter to Governor Scott asking whether the Governor planned to take any action to ensure that the Florida voting law would not disenfranchise Floridians.  To date, Governor Scott has not responded to that letter.