Tighter voting rules expected to help G.O.P.

-By: Brendan McLaughlin

May 20, 2011- TAMPA – Governor Rick Scott signed a sweeping election reform law this week that will cut early voting days nearly in half and make other dramatic changes.

Supporters say the law will prevent fraud, but voter rights groups, including the non-partisan League of Women Voters, say it's a blatant attempt to suppress voting.

Under the new law that takes effect immediately, early voting will be reduced from 15 days to eight, but because counties have the option of keeping their early voting locations open longer, the number of early voting hours could remain the same at 96.

But it's the new restrictions on voter registration groups that has caused the most uproar.

“This is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. There is no voter fraud in Florida,” fumed Hillsborough League of Women Voters president Mickey Cantor.

After 70 years, the league announced last week that they would stop registering voters in Florida because the law subjects their volunteers to steep fines if they don’t return filled-out registration forms to the supervisor of elections office within 48 hours. Under the previous law, they had 10 days.

The Republican-backed law also ends a long-standing policy of letting voters who have moved from one county to another to update their new addresses at the polls. They will be issued provisional ballots that are often not counted.

Brad Ashwell of the Florida Public Interest Research Group says it will increase the chances that someone’s vote is going to be thrown out when they do vote.

“It’s a bad bill. It's going to hurt voters and make it harder to vote” claimed Ashwell.



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