Asked for your Drivers License at the Polls? Don’t succumb! Know your rights!

Here’s the list of approved forms of photo ID in Florida. Insist on it!

Whether during early voting or on Election Day, you will be asked to provide at the polls a valid photo ID with signature. Any one of the following photo IDs will be accepted:

  • Florida driver’s license
  • Florida identification card issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
  • United States passport
  • Debit or credit card
  • Military identification
  • Student identification
  • Retirement center identification
  • Neighborhood association identification
  • Public assistance identification.

MUST READ investigative reporting by @dkpbpost on origins of Florida’s HB1355

Crack Palm Beach Post reporters, Dara Kam and John Lantigua have exposed the origins of Florida’s 2011 voter suppression law, HB1355.  Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell IV, who was formerly the Florida Division of Elections senior attorney, penned the first draft of the controversial legislation that made it more difficult for groups to register voters, reduced early voting hours, and required registered voters moving to a new county to cast a provisional ballot.  In 2000, he designed Katherine Harris’s flawed list that wrongly purged thousands of African Americans wrongly identified as felons.

Mitchell currently serves as general counsel for the Florida GOP.

According to his deposition in a lawsuit filed in 2011 by the League of Women Voters, Mitchell admitted to writing “the early version of 1355 around January 2011, after consultations with three top Florida GOP officials: Andy Palmer, then executive director of the Florida GOP; Frank Terraferma, head of GOP State House campaigns; and Joel Springer, head of State Senate campaigns. Also included in early talks was former executive director of the Florida GOP Jim Rimes, now a senior partner at Enwright Consulting, a Tallahassee political consulting firm that counsels GOP political candidates.”

When asked by LWV attorney Daniel O’Connor if he was “aware of any instances of any voters in Florida voting twice in a single election?” Mitchel replied, “Not specifically, no.”  When asked,“Were you aware of any other types of fraud or misconduct by voters who moved and attempted to update their address at a polling place and vote that same day?” Mitchell replied, “No.”

Evidently, writing legislation for the Republican-controlled legislature is common practice for Mitchell. As he told O’Connor, “Typically, what I do before a (legislative) session begins is, I look at changes that I think would be beneficial to our clients,” especially regarding campaign finance issues. “In this case, that’s how this election bill got started.”

The full story is available here.


Governor Scott Sued Again: Florida’s Unlawful Dual Election System

As I’ve written before, the state of Florida is operating under a dual electoral system.

This is clearly unconstitutional, and yet the state conducted its 2012 Presidential Preference Primary under two sets of electoral laws.

Now enter the ACLU, State Senator Arthenia Joyner, and the National Council of La Raza, who on June 29th filed this petition with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings. The case is to be heard by an Administrative Law Judge.

Below is their joint press release:

July 2, 2012
4:30 PM

CONTACT: ACLU, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, and National Council of La Raza

Media Office,(786) 363-2720 or

ACLU, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, National Council of La Raza, File Legal Challenge over Florida’s Illegal Dual System of Elections

MIAMI – July 2 – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, along with State Senator Arthenia Joyner, and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) filed an administrative petition against Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner challenging his implementation of a dual election system involving restrictive changes in election procedures adopted by the Florida Legislature in 2011. Along with the ACLU of Florida, petitioners are represented by the Brennan Center for Justice and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Currently, the State of Florida is operating an unlawful dual system of elections in violation of the state “Uniformity Statute.”  Sixty-two Florida counties are enforcing restrictive 2011 changes to the Florida election code. However, the previous law still applies in the five counties that are “covered” under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA) while the state awaits a federal court decision on whether the 2011 changes violate Section 5.

“Gov. Scott’s insistence that the state go forward with two different sets of voting laws and procedures in different counties not only violates Florida law requiring uniform elections throughout the state, it is a recipe for chaos and another embarrassment for our state,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida.  “The Governor’s insistence that the state can push the Voting Rights Act aside and not wait for approval from either the Department of Justice or the federal courts, is the clearest indication yet of his agenda to trample on the voting rights of the people of Florida.”

In 2011, the Florida legislature passed a law, referred to by many as the “Voter Suppression Act,” which included changes that make it more difficult for individuals to register to vote, reduce the number of days of early voting, specifically ban early voting on the Sunday prior to Election Day, and increase the odds that Florida voters will be required to cast provisional ballots. In the 2008 Presidential Election less than half of provisional ballots cast in Florida were counted. As required by Section 5 of the VRA, Florida must submit any changes to elections laws to the federal government for “preclearance” to ensure that they do not violate the voting rights of minorities in the five covered counties.  While many provisions of the 2011 law have received Section 5 preclearance, the restrictive portions have not.

Contrary to past practice and state law, and even though the restrictive portions of the 2011 law are not in effect in the five covered counties, Florida ordered elections officials to go forward with implementing the 2011 restrictive changes in the remaining 62 of the State’s 67 counties, while the five counties triggering the VRA review continue operating under the pre-2011 elections code. This has created a confusing and non-uniform election system across Florida.

“The petitioners are asking simply that Florida abide by state law which requires that the same voting rules apply throughout the State,” said Robert Kengle, co-director of the Lawyers’ Committee’s Voting Rights Project.  “The State is failing to apply the state Uniformity Statute in the same way it applied it in the past.”

This administrative challenge is one of several ongoing legal challenges to recent elections changes in Florida. Besides the ongoing preclearance review of the Voter Suppression Act now pending before a three judge federal panel in Washington DC, on May 31st of this year, a federal court in Tallahassee blocked enforcement of key provisions of the 2011 law’s restrictions on civic groups who conduct voter registration drives. In the last month, three different lawsuits, including one filed by the ACLU of Florida and the Lawyers’ Committee and one filed by the United States Justice Department, challenged the state’s “voter purge,” which disproportionately targets minorities and requires United States citizens to re-prove their citizenship or have their names purged from the voter rolls.

“Florida has repeatedly passed laws, and taken administrative actions, that make it harder for eligible citizens to vote,” said Diana Kasdan, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice. “These restrictions, and others across the country, represent the most significant cutback in voting rights in decades. Rather than erecting senseless barriers to voting, we should make our voting system work for all Americans by modernizing voter registration.”

The petition was filed on Friday, June 29th, with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings and will be heard and decided by an Administrative Law Judge to be assigned by the Division. The Washington D.C. office of the Bryan Cave Law firm and Mark Herron of Messer Caparello & Self of Tallahassee are also providing pro bono legal counsel in the case.

A copy of the petition with attached exhibits is available here:


The Failed Florida Secretary of State’s Voter Purge EXCLUSIVE

I’ve finally had time to crunch some numbers…

Between April 11 and June 7, 107 residents in 15 of the state’s 67 counties were removed from the state’s voter rolls on account of being “potential noncitizens.”  That’s roughly 0.00096% of the 11.2 million people currently registered to vote in the Sunshine State.

(Some perspective on the numbers: In the 2008 General Election, some 1,774 voters in Miami-Dade County alone mailed absentee ballots to the Supervisor of Elections, but they were rejected by the county canvassing board.  Another 833 voters, out of the thousands of voters in Miami-Dade County who had to cast provisional ballots in the 2008 presidential election, never had their votes counted.)

But back to the ongoing voter purge in Florida…

According to data I received through a recent public records request from Chris Cate, the spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner, of the 107 registered voters in Florida who were removed from the voting rolls by the Florida Division of Elections, more than a third were purged on May 4, 2012.

Here’s a Table with the date and the number of registered voters who were removed by the Florida SOS.

4/11/2012 1
4/17/2012 1
4/18/2012 1
4/19/2012 1
4/24/2012 1
4/25/2012 1
4/30/2012 1
5/2/2012 1
5/3/2012 1
5/4/2012 40
5/7/2012 1
5/8/2012 4
5/9/2012 1
5/11/2012 5
5/12/2012 2
5/13/2012 4
5/15/2012 7
5/16/2012 1
5/17/2012 4
5/21/2012 2
5/23/2012 2
5/29/2012 4
5/30/2012 2
5/31/2012 4
6/1/2012 1
6/4/2012 6
6/5/2012 1
6/7/2012 4
6/11/2012 1
6/12/2012 1
6/13/2012 1

And as I’ve mentioned before, it is particularly striking that little old Lee County (yep, you guessed it — it was named for Confederate General Robert E. Lee) accounted for more than 41% (44/107) of the suspected noncitizens who were purged from the voter rolls.  As Miami Herald journalist  Marc Caputo reported, Lee County (along with Collier County) continued “with the program of purging potential noncitizens if they fail to respond to the counties’ requests to proof citizenship” long after the other counties halted the purge because the Florida Secretary of State’s pared-down list of 2,625 “potential noncitizens” was flawed and widely discredited.

Indeed, of the 44 registered voters in Lee County that the state removed from the voter file, only two were on the list of 13 potential noncitizens that the Secretary of State sent to Lee County elections officials.

The astounding inaccuracy of the state’s list of 2,625 “potential noncitizens” was quite consistent across the other counties.

Only 41 registered voters residing in 13 counties–this is out of the 2,625 names flagged by the Florida SOS as “potential noncitizens”–were removed from the rolls.

In other words, 98.4% of the 2,625 people identified by the Florida SOS as “potential noncitizens” remain on the rolls because the Supervisors of Elections found insufficient evidence that they were ineligible to be registered voters.

The other 66 individuals who were purged from the state’s rolls were identified by eight county SOEs (Collier, Miami-Dade, Indian River, Lee, Martin, Okaloosa, Palm Beach, and Pinellas), independent of the Florida SOS’s blemished list of “potential noncitizens.”

Some list.

Reduced and Uneven Hours for Early Voting in Florida’s Presidential Preference Primary

As I’ve written before, under Florida law the state must provide uniform standards for the proper and equitable implementation of voting laws.  Unfortunately, House Bill 1355, enacted by the Florida legislature last May, has led to fewer and uneven opportunities for Floridians to cast ballots in the state’s January presidential preference primary.

Exhibit A: Reduced and Uneven Hours for In-Person Early Voting across the state’s 67 counties.

Despite claims to the contrary by outgoing Secretary of State Kurt Browning, citizens in the Sunshine State will have considerably fewer hours to vote early in the coming weeks prior to Election Day on January 31, and voters in some counties will have half as many hours to cast an in-person ballot as voters in other counties.

When compared with the state’s January 2008 presidential preference primary, voters in the Sunshine State will have a total of 1,888 and 1/2 fewer hours to cast early, in-person votes across the state’s 67 counties.  That’s a total of nearly 79 fewer working days for the state’s roughly 11.2 million registered voters to come out early and cast ballots.

But there is also considerable inequality in opportunity for Floridians to vote early, depending on the county in which they live.

Of the five Florida counties under Section 5 Voting Rights Act awaiting US Justice Department preclearance  (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, Monroe), early in-person voting for the January 31, 2012 presidential preference primary runs nearly two weeks, commencing on Monday, January 16.  Although they could do so, none of the five counties has opted to offer early voting on either Sunday, January 22 or Sunday, January 29 (despite the incorrect information posted of the Secretary of State’s website–which was changed after I prepared my US Senate testimony on the topic–indicating that the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections was planning to offer early in-person voting on both Sundays.)

Under House Bill 1355, the Supervisors of Elections of the state’s remaining 62 counties may offer up to 96 hours of early voting–from Saturday, January 21, to Saturday, January 28–although they may opt to limit voters to as few as 48 hours in total over the eight days they must keep their polls open.

Also, unlike in 2008, HB1355 prohibits counties not requiring US Department of Justice preclearance from offering early voting on the final Sunday (January 29) before Election Day.

As  I’ve written about here, the Florida Department of State, led by outgoing Secretary of State Kurt Browning, has continually misinformed the public about the total hours of early in-person (EIP) voting hours that are required under HB1355.  In an op-ed he penned in May 2001, Browning claimed that although the number of total days of early voting had been shortened, from 14 to 8, the total number of EIP voting hours  remained the same.  However, as Politifact documented, that claim that the total required number of EIP voting hours under HB1355 was “Mostly False.”

In fact, the total number of early in-person voting hours that county Supervisors of Elections must remain open under HB1355 has been cut in half, from 96 to 48. Under the new law, county Supervisors of Elections have the discretion to offer between six and 12 hours of early voting for each of the eight days polls are open—which amounts to a minimum of 48 hours and a maximum of 96 hours.

Polls will only be open for early voting this month for 48 hours in Citrus, Okeechobee, and Putnam counties, half of what they were in 2008. Citizens wanting to vote in Alachua, Okaloosa, and DeSoto counties will each see available hours trimmed from 96 hours four years ago to less than 55 hours this year.

Again, all 67 counties had 96 hours of early voting in 2008; this year, under HB1355, besides the five Section 5 VRA counties, only two counties are offering 96 hours of early voting–Lake and Miami-Dade.

When one tallies the total number of early voting hours across the state’s 67 counties, which I’ve done, Secretary Browning’s specious claim has indeed turned out to be false.

In the 2008 presidential preference primary, polls were open in the 67 counties a total of 6,432 hours; in the 2012 January primary, they’ll be open only 4,542 and 1/2 hours.

Although the 62 counties that are free an clear from the US Justice Department (as well as Section 5 Hillsborough County) will offer early voting on Sunday, January 22, the aggregate number of early voting hours is markedly less than in the 2008 presidential primary, which will undoubtedly make early voting less convenient for many Floridians.

But of course, that’s exactly what many Republicans in the state legislature had in mind when they passed HB1355 last year.