As a skeptical U.S. Supreme Court raised doubts about a central provision of the federal Voting Rights Act on Wednesday, the law’s defenders said the 2012 election provided a vivid example for why it was needed to protect Florida from voter suppression.
“Look at the performance of our governor and Legislature in the last election,’’ says Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida whose parent organization has joined in the lawsuit to retain the law. “They are walking advertisements for why we need the Voting Rights Act.”
After the Legislature passed a sweeping elections bill in 2011, the act’s provisions required the state to get federal approval from either a federal trial court or the Justice Department before the law could take effect in Monroe, Hillsborough, Hardee, Hendry and Collier counties.
In addition to seeking the review, Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi challenged the act’s constitutionality. Former Secretary of State Kurt Browning called the provisions of the act an “arbitrary and irrational coverage formula based on data from 40 years ago that takes no account of current conditions.”
The five Florida counties have been subject to the pre-clearance requirement of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act protections since 1975 because of a history of discrimination against language minorities. Monroe County, for example, failed to print ballots in Spanish even though the Spanish-speaking population was large enough to warrant its own ballot. Story here.