For Immediate Release
Lawyers’ Committee Submits Testimony for Critical Voting Rights Hearing in Florida
Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House stresses the need for legislation that addresses real problems such as deceptive practices and cumbersome voter registration restrictions
TAMPA, Fla. - The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law commends Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) for taking steps to address the importance of protecting the right to fully participate in our democracy for all Americans, especially vulnerable and traditionally disenfranchised persons. The Lawyers’ Committee submitted formal testimony for today’s Senate Committee on the Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearing, “New State Voting Laws II: Protecting the Right to Vote in the Sunshine State.”
Florida voters now face voting changes that include: 1) burdensome and wholly unnecessary restrictions on the ability to conduct voter registration drives, 2) reduction in the number of days for early voting and 3) a limitation on registered voters' existing opportunity to vote when they move between Florida counties.
“Restrictions on early voting, voter registration and onerous voter ID requirements do little to secure our electoral system, yet do a lot to create more barriers and problems for eligible voters,” Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law Public Policy Director Tanya Clay House said in the written testimony. “We urge state lawmakers to focus on passing legislation that addresses real problems such as deceptive practices and our cumbersome voter registration system instead of disregarding and undermining the very rights for which so many have fought and died.”
The Lawyers’ Committee leads the nonpartisan National Election Protection Coalition. Resources include the nationwide 1-866-OUR-VOTE hotline – to ensure all voters are able to cast a meaningful ballot. Highly trained volunteers are available for the Florida Primary Election on January 31st, to assist voters with any questions or problems, no matter how simple or complex. Voters may call 1-866-OUR-VOTE (1-866-687-8683) toll-free with any questions or issues that may arise.
Based upon past Election Protection efforts in Florida, the Lawyers’ Committee submitted examples of the challenges Florida voters have traditionally faced.
“The erection of new barriers to the ballot is exactly the opposite of what is needed to ensure the protection of all eligible voters throughout the electoral process,” the testimony continued. Mrs. House reiterated that H.B. 1355 is a direct attack on the ability of certain communities, particularly African Americans, to exercise their right to vote.
These voting changes now are being implemented throughout the state, with the exception of the five counties (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe) where the state must obtain preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. With regard to Section 5, the state has filed suit in U.S. District Court and the Lawyers’ Committee is representing interveners in that suit – the National Council of La Raza and the League of Women Voters of Florida – to oppose preclearance.
The 1-866-OUR-VOTE English language hotline will be staffed live from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST on Primary Election Day. Spanish-speaking voters may seek assistance through the 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682) hotline.
Election Protection has field programs in Miami Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Hillsborough counties.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (LCCRUL), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice under law, particularly in the areas of fair housing and fair lending, community development, employment discrimination, voting, education and environmental justice. For more information about the LCCRUL, visit www.lawyerscommittee.org.