Florida Senator Bill Nelson Stands With Voter Rights, Against Voter Suppression Laws
June 12 2012
Earlier today, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida took to the Senate floor blasting Florida Govenor Rick Scott’s for suing the federal government for access to a voter database. The governor says that the database would validate his state’s onerous voter suppression law, HB 1355, but this brazen move is just one more attempt at voter suppression in a swing state.
The lawsuit was filed in response to the government’s demand that Florida cease with its plans to purge thousands of voters from its rolls or risk violating the Voting Rights Act. The vast majority of those to be purged include Black and Latino voters and the government has filed a lawsuit to get Florida to act.
It hasn’t been a good couple of weeks for the Sunshine State’s voter suppression plans. Senator Nelson’s speech and the government’s lawsuit come on the heels of a federal court decision that blocked key provisions of HB 1355. Those key provisions include the 48-hour turnaround time for third party voter registration groups and the ban on voting the Sunday before Election Day. Both of these provisions would negatively impact minority communities, the elderly, and young voters, who benefit the most from such voting laws. Colorlines.com summed up the impact in a recent post:
According to the Brennan Center for Justice (PDF), Black and Latino Floridians are more than twice as likely to register to vote through community-based voter registration drives than White voters. According to the New York Times, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote as of May 2012 than during the same period before the 2008 elections.
NCLR is one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit to block SB 1355 and we’re happy to see this terrible law weakened. The state’s claims that voter fraud is a problem are baseless, proven by the scant number of voter fraud cases Florida has prosecuted in the last ten years. The reality is that this law is shamelessly aimed at stripping the rights of people of color.
It’s imperative that Gov. Scott’s frivolous lawsuit be thrown out. Sen. Nelson is to be commended for taking a stand to protect the sacred voting rights of his constituents.
Watch the Senator’s speech below. Full text of the speech can be found below the video.
As I was heading to the Capitol this morning, I couldn’t help but think about the jolting news from my state: the Justice Department will sue Florida over its purge of voting rolls. Being a native Floridian whose family came to Florida 183 years ago, and having served the people of my state for years …
… I simply cannot believe the State of Florida would deliberately make it more difficult for lawful citizens to vote. But the governor did sign the new law last summer to reduce early voting days and blunt voter registration drives.
Then he launched this massive purge of the voter rolls—hunting for illegal immigrants. And in so doing, he’s now defying federal authorities who say you cannot conduct a purge of voter rolls so close to an election.
The governor and his administration should ensure the credibility of our voter rolls. They should have a program to suppress fraud. But above all else, the state must ensure that every lawful citizen who has the right to vote can do so without impediment.
It was a long time ago, but something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said about voting rights seems appropriate again. Dr. King said, “The denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions. It is democracy turned upside down.”
I hope the governor will heed those words.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
Issues: Civic Engagement, Latino Voter Participation, Mobilize to Vote
Geography:California, Far West, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, Texas