LULAC Provides Testimony of Controversial Florida Voting Law HB 1355

January 27, 2012

Contact: Paloma Zuleta, pzuleta@lulac.org, (202) 812-4477



LULAC Executive Director, Brent Wilkes, provided oral testimony to the Judiciary Committee regarding the law’s adverse effect on the Hispanic population

Tampa, Florida – Today at 1 P.M., the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights hosted a field hearing to examine the impact of the new voting law HB 1355 on the Hispanic community which restricts early voting and impedes the efforts of organizations that represent Hispanic interest to register new voters. The open hearing was chaired by Assistant Majority Leader Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and was requested by Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), the senior U.S. Senator from Florida. LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes testified as to the detrimental effects of HB 1355 on Latinos in Florida.

“This law will cripple the mission of civic organizations like LULAC, where part of our mission is to engage the Hispanic community in the democratic process,” stated Brent Wilkes, “More than one-third of voters who registered through non-partisan third-party drives were racial minorities in 2008, confirming that community-based registration initiatives are imperative to help the Latino community vote.”

HB 1355 reduces the number of early voting days from 14 to 8 and prohibits early voting on the Sunday before the election. The law requires third-party voter registration organizations to submit voter registration applications within 48 hours of receipt, instead of 10 days as provided by existing law, and further imposes a fine of $50 for each failure to comply with the deadline, and imposing fines of up to $1,000 for failing to comply with other provisions.

Such limitations to the registration process have prevented local Florida groups from promoting the civic engagement and electoral participation. The new law has led non-partisan organizations like Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters to indefinitely suspend all voter registration efforts in Florida. These kinds of laws make it almost impossible for tens of thousands of elderly, disabled, minorities, young, rural, and low income Floridians to register and exercise their right to vote. The law fails to take into consideration the mortgage foreclosure crisis which is arguably at its worst in Florida as per the HB 1355 voters who move from one Florida County to another are unable to make an address change at the polls on the day of an election and use a regular ballot.

The new law requires Supervisors of Elections to deny absentee ballot requests if there are any discrepancies regarding an individual’s signature. Hispanic seniors rely on the absentee ballot to exercise their right to vote. Since they are traditionally not English proficient, their handwriting can easily be misconstrued, making their requests to vote invalid.

Proponents of HB 1355 claim that the law will reduce voter fraud and save resources, yet the costs of its execution threaten the 1.1 million eligible Latino voters that are yet unregistered.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, the largest and oldest Hispanic membership organization in the country, advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating through 880 LULAC councils nationwide.

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