Senator Bill Nelson doesn’t mince words in a letter to Florida governor Rick Scott: veto a controversial election bill, or prepare to answer to the Justice Department.
Because Florida is one of 9 states covered by both sections (5 and 203) of the Voting Rights Act, meaning any changes to election laws that could impact racial, ethnic or language minorities must get federal preclearance, Nelson is warning Scott that if he signs an election overhaul that many see as limiting minority (among other) voting rights, he could be made to answer to the feds.
Nelson’s letter reads:
Please veto the elections legislation the Florida Legislature just passed. No doubt you’ve seen the many criticisms, especially that it would significantly reduce the number of early-voting days. Because Florida has five counties needing federal approval in the event of major changes in election procedures, I have asked the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation if this bill becomes law.
There are just too many questions about whether this measure would disenfranchise an untold number of Floridians. I remain convinced it is bad for our democratic process. Thank you for considering these concerns.
So far, Scott has not appeared amenable to persuasion (except by the tea party.) We’ll see if Nelson’s letter gets him, or Florida, anywhere.
UPDATE: Nelson’s stance has put him into a verbal shooting match with potential Republican Senate opponent (and current state Senate president) Mike Haridopolos, who was pissed that Nelson in criticizing the election overhaul bill said it could disenfranchise the very troops who were successful in taking down Osama bin Laden.
Haridopolos, who is running for Senate in 2012 and would face Nelson if both win their respective primaries, said that Nelson was playing “political games” by invoking the Bin Laden killing in the election bill debate.
“That is unbecoming of a United States Senator and a leader in our state,” he said in a prepared statement.
Meanwhile, Nelson isn’t the only, or even the first to seek redress from the feds from what they call Republican attempts at voter disenfranchisement. The ACLU of Florida and the NAACP have already asked the Justice Department to investigate Scott’s executive order reversing an easing of restrictions on the voting rights of former felons.
Don’t be surprised if the League of Women Voters goes after the part of the bill that puts severe restrictions on groups who register people to vote, if and when it’s signed.