Think your ballot counts in Florida? If legislation passes this session, you may never know…

One in 20 ballots cast by the 56.6k 18-21 year-olds in Florida who voted by mail in the 2018 General Election were rejected as invalid by county Canvassing Boards. This figure is even higher than in previous election years, as I found in my report for ACLU Florida.

I suspect that federal Judge Mark Walker, who ruled prior to the 2018 General Election that Florida voters should have an opportunity to cure their vote-by-mail ballots if they they had a problem with their signature, might be surprised by this figure.

Perhaps I’ll write more about this troubling statistic. Or perhaps not.

It will depend on whether election records in Florida remain open to the public for scrutiny.

Chances are, they may not be.  So much for the “Sunshine State.”

Republican Representative Cyndi Stevenson has introduced HB 218, https://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=63174, which is similar to Republican Senator Tom Lee’s SB 342, https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00342.*

The bills are a follow-up to a 2018 bill (HB 761) filed by Representative Stevenson, which would have kept voter information secret. That bill passed 10-0 out of committee. There was no public discussion or debate.

Sure, there some privacy issues that may concern some people when voter registration records available to the public.  But open record laws are essential if you want to ensure you haven’t been kicked off the voter rolls or to ensure that that ballot that you cast actually is counted.

Do you know if you were one of the 35k voters in Florida who had his or her ballot rejected (either their Vote-by-Mail or their provisional ballot cast at the polls)?

Sadly if this bill passes, in the future, you may never know.

Public records are essential for scholars to be able to dig down into the weeds to ensure the equal protection of voters.  Our ability to do so in Florida hinges on whether the state legislature decides to follow the self-serving recommendation of our elected Supervisors of Elections to restrict voter records and avoid public scrutiny and accountability.

Don’t be fooled about this bill being an effort to protect voters.  If it passes, it will have exactly the opposite effect. Without transparency, voter disenfranchisement becomes much more of a reality.

Don’t let democracy in the Sunshine State die in darkness.

 

*Note: Corrections for 2019 legislation.

 

Now available: “Mortality, Incarceration, and African American Disenfranchisement in the Contemporary United States”

Available here

Now Available for (free) Download: “Race, Shelby County, and the Voter Information Verification Act in North Carolina”

Race, Shelby County, and the Voter Information Verification Act in North Carolina

Florida State University Law Review

Michael C. Herron & Daniel A. Smith

Abstract

Shortly after the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the State of North Carolina enacted an omnibus piece of elec-tion-reform legislation known as the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA). Prior to Shelby, portions of North Carolina were covered jurisdictions per the VRA’s sections 4 and 5—meaning that they had to seek federal preclearance for changes to their election proce-dures—and this motivates our assessment of whether VIVA’s many alterations to North Carolina’s election procedures are race-neutral. We show that in presidential elections in North Carolina black early voters have cast their ballots disproportionately in the first week of early voting, which was eliminated by VIVA; that blacks disproportionately have registered to vote during early voting and in the immediate run-up to Election Day, something VIVA now prohibits; that registered voters in the state who lack two VIVA-acceptable forms of voter identification, driver’s licenses and non-operator identification cards, are disproportionately black; that VIVA’s identification dispensation for voters at least seventy years old disproportionately benefits white registered voters; and, that preregistered sixteen and seventeen year old voters in North Carolina, a category of registrants that VIVA prohibits, are disproportionately black. These results illustrate how VIVA will have a disparate effect on black voters in North Carolina.

Download here:

 

11th Circuit Holds Rick Scott’s 2012 Voter Purge of “Potential Non-Citizens” in Florida Violated the NVRA

Today, the 11th Circuit in Atlanta granted Plaintiffs-Appellants’ appeal in Arcia v. Detzner, No. 12-15738-EE.

The opinion is Arcia v. Detzner 11th Cir. Opinion.

I served as the expert for the Arcia plaintiffs. My expert report is available here.

 

Here are some excerpts from the majority’s decision:

We reject Secretary Detzner’s attempts to have us decide today whether both the General Removal Provision and the 90 Day Provision allow for removals of non-citizens. Certainly an interpretation of the General Removal Provision that prevents Florida from removing non-citizens would raise constitutional concerns regarding Congress’s power to determine the qualifications of eligible voters in federal elections. Cf. Arizona v. Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, Inc., ___ U.S. ___, 133 S. Ct. 2247, 2257 (2013) (“Arizona is correct that the Elections Clause empowers Congress to regulate how federal elections are held, but not who may vote in them.”). We are not convinced, however, that the Secretary’s perceived need for an equitable exception in the General Removal Provision also requires us to find the same exception in the 90 Day Provision

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In closing, we emphasize that our interpretation of the 90 Day Provision [of the NRVA] does not in any way handcuff a state from using its resources to ensure that non-citizens are not listed in the voter rolls. The 90 Day Provision by its terms only applies to programs which “systematically” remove the names of ineligible voters. As a result, the 90 Day Provision would not bar a state from investigating potential non-citizens and removing them on the basis of individualized information, even within the 90-day window. All that the 90 Day Provision prohibits is a program whose purpose is to “systematically remove the names of ineligible voters” from the voter rolls within the last 90 days before a federal election. 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(c)(2)(A).

Does an amendment to new Florida election bill violate provisions of Voting Rights Act?

Here’s a copy of the SB 600 amendment letter sent to the members of the Florida Senator regarding Sen. Latvala’s effort to restrict election assistance to disabled voters, which very well may violate several provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

It’s signed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Common Cause Florida, Rock the Vote, and the National Congress of Black Women.

Sen. Latvala’s amendment to the pending legislation is available here.