Election bill controversy grows

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Last year Carley Sattler helped register hundreds of voters at Florida State University.

“A lot of students weren’t even aware that there were elections,” she said at the time.

Sattler is the Chapter Chair of FSU Public Interest Research Group and regularly participates in voter registration drives. But she may stop signing up voters because of changes in Florida’s elections laws.

The changes shorten the time voter registration groups have to turn in forms from 10 days to two. For each form turned in late a 50 dollar fine would be levied.

“I wouldn’t be shocked at all if a lot of organizations stopped doing registration. The fees were scary enough the past semesters, now fees and deadlines are even more restrictive,” Sattler said.

The election changes would also force volunteers to register with the state before signing up voters. Those changes have volunteer groups like the League of Women Voters crying foul.

“That could be an undo burden for people who really do this as a labor of love, something they are committed to and see as their civic duty,” said Jessica Lowe-Minor with the League of Women Voters.

Other changes include shortening early voting from two weeks to one and requiring voters who change their address 30 days before Election Day to cast provisional ballots.

The controversy surrounding the changes has already reached Washington. A delegation of Democratic Congressmen sent a letter to the Justice Department asking for a review. The Justice Department responded with a letter promising to “carefully consider” the changes to see if they violate the Voter Rights Act.”

Supporters of the changes say it’s all about fraud prevention. But there’s only been 31 reports of voter fraud in Florida since 2008; and in only four of those cases arrest warrants were issued.

Besides third-party voter registration groups and supervisors of elections Democrats oppose the bill. They say the changes would have a major impact on their voters because Democrats are more likely to voter early. They’re also more likely to register to vote with a third party registration group.