Florida's controversial elections law is already the subject of two different lawsuits by groups who say it suppresses voting rights, particularly for young and minority voters.
Republicans in the Florida Legislature who passed the law last year said it was needed to prevent voter fraud.
On Friday it was the subject of a nearly two-hour federal hearing in Tampa hosted by Democratic Senators Bill Nelson of Florida and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chairman of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights. They heard testimony from seven panelists, all but one of whom spoke critically of the legislation. A jam-packed Hillsborough County courthouse was the site of the hearing, with an overflow crowd of another couple hundred watching via closed circuit television on the same floor.
The most powerful critic might have been Ann McFall, the supervisor of elections in Volusia County who is stepping down from office at the end of this year. The bill was passed by state Republicans in Tallahassee and is vehemently opposed by Democrats; McFall is a Republican.
Among the provisions in the new law is one that reduces the early voting days from 14 to 8. Legislators have said this would help local supervisors of elections save money, but McFall said just the opposite would happen. Some workers' 40-hour weeks would now have to be expanded, she said, requiring that they be paid overtime — a cost that would be picked up by taxpayers.
She said that SOE's should be making early voting more convenient, not less, allowing them to vote at community centers, college campuses, YMCA's, malls, churches and storefronts.
University of Florida Political Science Professor Dan Smith provided detailed information from a study of early voting statistics from 2008 in Florida that he compiled with Dartmouth College Professor Michael C. Herron. He reported that the number of black and Latino voters increased dramatically on the Sunday before the general election. Under the new law, there is now no early voting on Sundays.