Reporting Tim Kephart
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Governor Rick Scott and the Republican-led Florida Legislature were rebuked by a federal judge Thursday for cutting early voting days.
Last year, the legislature cut the number of early voting days from 12 to 8, but the District Court for the District of Columbia said the changes will not be allowed in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe counties due to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Section 5 requires any election changes to be cleared by either federal officials or a federal court. The states or counties covered by Section 5 all have a history of discriminating against blacks, American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaskan Natives, or Hispanics.
Three judges on the DC District Court said the reduction in early voting days in those counties “would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot.” The ruling could also be used by the Justice Department against other Republican-led states that have tried to curb early voting.
Historically, early voting tends to skew Democratic while absentee ballots tend to skew Republican.
The DC court did say there were ways Florida could change its early voting practices that would not adversely impact minority voting rights.
In a conference call Friday morning, Monroe county elections supervisor Harry Sawyer says Florida’s Secretary of State encouraged the five counties to go along with the rest of the state.
Sawyer says he thinks that’s not the right thing to do.
“Basically what I expressed to the Secretary is that I couldn’t go along with this and I didn’t feel right and I did say I still feel in my mind and my heart that this does discriminate,” Sawyer said.