Supreme Court ruling affects 5 Florida counties
US Supreme Court ruling on Voting Rights Act affects 5 Florida counties
Five Florida counties won't need federal approval to put voting changes in place after a U.S. Supreme Court decision Tuesday that Secretary of State Ken Detzner said will save Florida money and streamline the voting process.
The court said a key provision of the Voting Rights Act is unenforceable because it's based on 40-year-old data and doesn't take into consideration the current racial climate. The provision requires some states and parts of others states to get U.S. Justice Department approval for elections changes to makes sure there's no discrimination.
In Florida, that meant Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hendry and Hardee counties had to wait to put new election laws in place while the rest of the state went ahead with the changes.
"The court made a very good decision for Florida and that we can move forward with administering the elections ... without the Justice Department looking over our shoulder every time the Florida Legislature thinks that we need some changes in the law," Detzner said.
Gov. Rick Scott signed an elections bill in 2011 that cut early voting days, among other changes, and it was challenged by voting rights groups. Detzner said it cost about $750,000 to defend the law.
"That cost will be eliminated in the future as a result of this opinion," said Detzner, who noted that the state will now not need to get approval for a wide-ranging elections bill that Scott signed into law last month. "We're free and clear to follow through with our law now without any restriction by the Justice Department."
Scott also praised the decision.
"I think it's very important that all of our elections be honest, ethical, fair — all those things. I want to make sure there's no racial discrimination in any of our elections, but any time we have the opportunity to make our own decisions, I think that's great for our state," Scott said.
Hillsborough County elections supervisor Craig Latimer said while the ruling means he will no longer have to notify the federal government if he moves polling sites, he didn't see the process as a problem.
"Any time we move a polling site, we make application. It's never been a burden on us to do this. We've been able to do it electronically and we've had all the information so it's not been a real issue for us," Latimer said. "I was never really concerned about it because we knew if we moved a polling site that we had done our homework and we weren't making it onerous one somebody to go from one site to another. There was no repression of any type."
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