The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Senate Field Hearing Examines Barriers to Voting in Florida

January 27, 2012 - Posted by Ron Bigler

Recent changes and legislation affecting elections in Florida will have a negative effect on voter participation, civil and human rights advocates told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights during a field hearing held today in Tampa, Florida.

Reflecting concerns about a pattern of recent and pending state laws restricting access to voting, testimony at the hearing focused in particular on Florida’s recently enacted HB 1355. Among other things, HB 1355 shortens the time for early voting and creates administrative hurdles that discourage independent groups from carrying out voter registration work in Florida.

In submitted testimony, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, challenged the necessity of laws such as HB 1355 and said that governments should be acting to increase voter participation, not suppress it.

“Although many historical barriers to voting—like property requirements, literacy tests, and poll  taxes—are no longer constitutional, for many Americans voter registration continues to be an impediment,” said Henderson. “In 2008, 2.13 million voters registered in Florida, at least 8.24 percent or 176, 000 of them did so through registration drives.”

And as Henderson pointed out, African Americans and Latinos are more likely to register to vote through campaigns conducted in their neighborhoods.  According to the Census Bureau, Henderson notes that “2.7 percent of black voters and 12.1 percent of Hispanic registered voters registered through drives compared to only 6.3 percent of non-Hispanic white registered voters in Florida.”

Given these facts, Henderson said that:

 … voter registration drives conducted by nonpartisan, nonprofit organizations have dramatically increased voter registration rates among groups that have traditionally faced the greatest barriers to voting, including low-income, minority, and elderly. Consequently, HB 1355’s dramatic impact on third-party registrations is poised to have a significant impact on one of the  state’s key mechanisms in achieving minority participation and access to the ballot.

ACLU, Demos, Project Vote/Voting for America, the Brennan Center for Justice, and Florida Consumer Action Network also submitted testimony for the hearing.

To learn more and find tools for protecting the right to vote, visit Election Protection.

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