Impact on Florida of the two Supreme Court rulings on voting

Voter fraud remains a problem in Florida. According to BallotPedia, a study conducted by the Florida Sun Sentinel in late October 2008 found:

  • More than 65,000 ineligible and duplicate voters on Florida’s registration rolls.
  • 600 dead people on the list.
  • 32,000 multiply-registered voters.
  • More than 33,000 convicted felons who should not be eligible to vote.
  • In the final five weeks before voter registration closed Oct. 6, Florida added more than 2,600 ineligible felons to the rolls.

The Supreme Court of the United States made two key rulings dealing with voting.

The first dealt with the Arizona law requiring those registering to vote show proof of citizenship.

Justice Antonin Scalia, who wrote the court’s majority opinion, said federal law “precludes Arizona from requiring a federal form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself.”  If a Florida resident uses the Federal form, then that registrant must comply with all of the Florida requirements for voter registration.

The Florida Constitution states:

SECTION 3 Oath.—Each eligible citizen upon registering shall subscribe the following: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Florida, and that I am qualified to register as an elector under the Constitution and laws of the State of Florida.”

SECTION 4. Disqualifications.—

(a) No person convicted of a felony, or adjudicated in this or any other state to be mentally incompetent, shall be qualified to vote or hold office until restoration of civil rights or removal of disability.

Under federal law it is a felony to register and vote illegally. However,  in Florida enforcement of these provisions is left up to the local Supervisor of Elections and state attorney.

The second fundamentally changed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

In an email to Florida’s Supervisors of Elections Maria Matthews, Esq., Director, Division of Elections, Florida Department of State, writes:

“[T]he United States Supreme Court issued a decision in Shelby County v. Holder, striking down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”) as being unconstitutional.  Section 4(b) contained the coverage formula for determining whether a jurisdiction is subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the VRA. The Court did not strike down Section 5; however, the coverage formula in section 4(b) can no longer be used as a basis for subject­ing jurisdictions to Section 5 preclearance until Congress creates a new coverage formula (if it should so desire to do so).

The court’s decision means:

  • Florida’s five covered counties (Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe) are no longer covered by Section 4(b); therefore, they are not subject to the preclearance requirement in Section 5 of the VRA and need not submit changes affecting voting to the federal government for approval.
  • Collier and Monroe Counties will also no longer have to provide Spanish on the ballot. This is due to the fact that subsection 4(b) is incorporated by reference into subsection 4(f)(4) which was the basis for the minority language designation for these two counties. Therefore, until or unless they are designated in the future under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act by triggering census minority population thresholds or by court consent decree, these two counties do not have to provide the ballot and other election materials in Spanish.
  • Hardee, Hendry and Hillsborough counties are still designated as minority language designated/covered jurisdictions through their separate designation under Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act. This means they still have to provide election materials including the ballot in Spanish. However, they do not have to submit anything to the federal government for approval.
  • All other counties in the State who are required to provide Spanish on the ballot and other election materials on the basis of a court consent decree (such as Osceola and Volusia) or on the basis of Section 203 designation (Broward, Lee, Miami-Dade, Orange, Palm Beach and Polk) must continue to do so.”

As Florida approaches the mid-term election cycle the issue of registering legal voters and legal voters voting will be raised. Those against following the federal and state laws argue by doing so it suppresses the vote. That is true – it suppresses the illegal vote.