Charlie Crist will discuss Florida voting — again. This time, he’ll be in front of the U.S. Senate. (Photo by Neon Tommy.)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

On Wednesday, former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist will testify in front of a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about the state’s election laws and procedures following this year’s presidential election.

Florida was among the last state’s to finish counting votes this past November because of long lines and an unexpected influx of absentee ballots, among other things. Some precincts in Miami-Dade County had lines that were up to six hours long on Election Day. When President Obama gave his victory speech on election night, people were still standing in line to vote in South Florida.

At the forefront of the discussion about what when wrong in Florida during the election is the state’s new voting law, 2011’s HB 1355.

The law, which was passed by a Republican-controlled legislature, has been controversial for its cuts to early voting days, burdensome requirements for third-party groups registering voters, and extra rules for people voting before Election Day, as well as a host of other unpopular changes.

What has received the most attention, however, is the reasoning behind the sudden changes to Florida’s voting laws. That’s something Crist has criticized in recent weeks.

As The Palm Beach Post reports:

Florida GOP officials said those changes were made to fight voter fraud and save money. But former state GOP chairman Jim Greer told The Post last month that he attended meetings in 2009, not long after the 2008 victory in Florida by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, during which GOP staffers and consultants discussed changes that needed to be made to electoral laws in order to suppress voting by Democrats, especially minority voters. Greer is currently under indictment for allegedly stealing money from the party and his charges have been dismissed by a GOP spokesperson as revenge against the party.

But Crist told The Post that he also suspected that voter suppression was the real reason behind the changes in the laws. Crist could not be reached for comment Monday about his planned testimony Wednesday.

Crist  is now registered as a Democrat, signaling that he is mulling over challenging Gov. Rick Scott in the 2014 gubernatorial election.

According to the announcement about the Senate hearing:

“Other witnesses include leading Voting Rights Act advocate Nina Perales, vice president of litigation at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), and state Rep. Gilda Cobb Hunter (D-S.C.), who has opposed South Carolina’s voter ID law in the South Carolina state legislature, highlighting the burdens posed to the ability of her constituents to vote posed by the new law’s requirements.  Each will testify about the problems faced by Americans trying to exercise their right to vote in the 2012 elections.”

“These witnesses have each observed the new barriers that have suppressed the ability of millions of Americans to vote in states throughout the country,” Leahy said. “I look forward to learning from this expert panel about problems at the polls during the 2012 elections and how, through oversight, legislation, and continued enforcement of laws like the Voting Rights Act, Congress can help to make sure such abusive practices and barriers to the voting booth are never repeated.”

Civil rights groups, voting rights groups, and elections experts had warned Florida lawmakers that the law could add barriers to voting in Florida this year, as well as cause unanticipated problems at the polls.



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