Early voting was reduced from two weeks to one week. Voting on the Sunday before election day was eliminated. College students face new hurdles if they want to vote away from home. And those who register new voters face the threat of fines for procedural errors, prompting the nonpartisan League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration drives and accuse the Legislature of "reverting to Jim Crow-like tactics."
What is happening in Florida is part of a national trend, as election law has become a fierce partisan battleground. In states where Republicans have taken majority control, they have tightened rules for registering new voters, reduced the time for casting ballots and required voters to show photo identification at the polls. The new restrictions were usually adopted on party-line votes and signed by Republican governors.
During Florida's legislative debate on the new law, a Republican state senator argued that it should not be easy or convenient to vote. Voting "is a hard-fought privilege. This is something people died for," said Sen. Michael Bennett of Bradenton, the chamber's president pro tempore. "Why should we make it easier?"
Seven states — Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin — voted to require registered voters to show photo identification at the polling place. Democratic governors vetoed such bills in five other states.
The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law estimated that new laws across the nation "could make it significantly harder for more than 5 million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012." The new restrictions will "fall most heavily on young, minority and low-income voters," the group said.