TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- African American lawmakers are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to expand early voting for the presidential election in November.
Sen. Arthenia Joyner was joined by members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus at the state Capitol on Monday and they asked for a meeting with Gov. Scott, but she said they were told he was too busy.
Sen. Joyner wants to talk to the governor about Florida's new election law, which reduces the number of early voting days from 14 to 8. A federal court has ruled the law disproportionately affects black voters and makes it harder for them to vote.
Joyner says Gov. Scott should restore Florida's previous election law. It allows 14 days of early voting and is still used in five counties, including Hillsborough County, because of a history of discrimination in those areas.
So Florida is operating under two different elections laws right now and Sen. Joyner says Gov. Scott should take action to make it uniform.
"Do what's right, Gov. Scott. Extend early voting to 14 days from Pensacola to Key West. Do what's right. This is an immoral law and you need to do what's necessary."
The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the new election law in 2011 over the objections of Democrats, who argued the plan was designed to minimize Democratic turnout in the 2012 presidential election.
The law bans early voting on the Sunday before an election. Voting on that day was becoming a tradition among black voters as they headed to the polls after church.
Joyner says voting records show black voters use early voting much more than white voters.
"Early voting is by all measures highly successful. Why would we retreat from a success? The answer in the minds of many is that because the Republicans do not want to give an advantage to Democrats because African Americans mostly vote Democratic. It's my position that we're talking about a fundamental right that transcends politics."
The five counties operating under the old election law are covered by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so any changes to the state's election law must be cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court.
Voting records show black voters use early voting much more than white voters. Sen. Joyner says many African Americans believe Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature scaled back early voting because black voters often vote Democratic.
The Florida Secretary of State's Office issued a statement, saying it expects the new election law to get federal clearance.
First Coast News