In Florida, like in other battleground states across the country, legislation has been passed that threatens the democratic process on which this country was founded. Fortunately, judges across the nation have begun to step in and protect the rights of voters and voter groups.
In 2011 the Republican-controlled legislature in Florida passed a law that included four different provisions that would make it difficult for voters to have their voices heard. One provision got rid of a decades-long practice that allowed voters to change their name or address at the polls. Another provision limited the timeframe for early voting from 14 days to 8 days. Republican legislators also made it more difficult for absentee ballots to be counted if the signature on the ballot does not exactly match the signature on record.
The most hotly contested portion of the legislation, however, was the provision that made it significantly more difficult for third-party groups to register voters. According to new rules under the law, non-partisan groups like the League of Women Voters and NAACP must turn in completed registration cards 48 hours after new voters fill them out instead of the 10 days organizations usually had. As a result of the burden that the new rules placed on these groups, the number of registered Democrats from July 1, 2011 to August 1 2012 increased by only 11,635—significantly lower than the 159,000 increase reported in 2004 and 260,000 increase recorded in 2008.
Fortunately, following law suits by organizations such as Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters, a federal judge has said that he will block provisions of the Florida law that make it harder for organizations to register voters. While the judge’s ruling won’t overturn all aspects of the law, it will give organizations more time to turn in completed registration cards to local officials.
This election is just as pivotal as any other election in recent memory, and it is all of our responsibilities to make sure that all of us are informed of our rights to vote, and have access to the polls.