Rep. Kathy Castor (D-FL) is attending the U.S. Senate Subcommittee Hearing on Gov. Rick Scott's voter suppression election law in Tampa. In advance of the hearing, Castor was joined by representatives of the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, and University of South Florida Student Government to explain the harmful consequences of Gov. Rick Scott's voter suppression law.
The hearing is being held today with Sen. Bill Nelson and Sen. Dick Durbin. Gov. Rick Scott was invited to attend the hearing by Sen. Durbin, but his spokesman said Scott would be ignoring the letter of request and refused to attend the hearing because he was "busy and didn't write the law."
Rep. Castor released the following statement in regards to the hearing: "New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State" and Governor Rick Scott's voter suppression law:
“The diverse group joining me here today is representative of the harm that this new law will cause,” Castor said. “Students are the most likely to have moved and need to update their address on election day and minority voters have historically taken advantage of Early Voting opportunities.”
Florida is one of several states across the country to enact laws that will lead to voter suppression. The non-partisan Brennan Center study estimates these new voter laws will make it significantly harder for 5 million voters to cast ballots across the country.
“At a time when we should be encouraging more people to participate in our democracy, Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature are doing everything they can to make it harder for our neighbors to vote,” Castor said. “Nothing is more basic in our democracy than the right for our neighbors to vote and if any one person is discouraged or denied that right all of us suffer.”
The Florida League of Women Voters discontinued their voter registration efforts citing that they could not put their volunteers at risk and “subject them to a process that can result in their facing financial and civil penalties.”
“Governor Scott’s voter suppression law is clearly an attempt to dilute the power of those who may vote against him and his failed policies,” Castor said. “Not only is it harder to register new voters, but this law makes harder for many of our neighbors to exercise their right to vote.”
Key features of the Florida Voter Suppression Law:
- Reduces early voting from 14 days to eight
- Prohibits early voting on the last Sunday before Election Day
- Voters who attempt to change their addresses at the polls on Election Day may only cast provisional ballot
- Voter registration groups must pre-register before engaging in any voter registration activity
- Requires registration forms to be physically received within 48 hours of signature or face strict penalties and fines.
“Unfortunately, here in Hillsborough County we have a history of past racial discrimination that undermined voting rights and led to a special preclearance designation by the Department of Justice,” Castor said. “We must ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and do everything we can to inform voters about these new changes that may affect their ability to vote.”
Castor has long fought against any efforts that might suppress voter turnout. In 2008 she raised concerns about the lack of early voting locations in minority communities in Pinellas County (see attached letter). Last year, she also joined her Florida colleagues in asking the Department of Justice to use its authority under the Voting Rights Act to review the impact of the Florida law on the five Florida counties currently under preclearance requirements