Fla. Sen. Nelson criticizes GOP elections bill

AP News
Posted: May 02, 2011 2:40 PM
Fla. Sen. Nelson criticizes GOP elections bill

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said Monday that if Republican lawmakers get their way, some of the people who helped plan and carry out the killing of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden could be lose their votes in Florida elections.

Nelson, who is seeking a third term next year, and state Democratic leaders say an election bill being pushed by Republicans will make it more difficult for some people to vote. Nelson said that includes military personnel serving overseas. Among the changes would be a requirement that absentee ballots are signed the same way as voter registration cards.

"Should we deny those very military that carried out this very successful decapitating of the al-Qaida snake, should we deny them because they have signed their voter registration card in a different way than they signed their absentee ballot overseas?" said Nelson. He said he's concerned that a vote could be lost if a William Jones signs his absentee ballot Sgt. Bill Jones.

Republicans say the bill passed by the House and waiting for Senate approval (HB 1355) is an effort to prevent voter fraud. Among other provisions, it forces some voters to use provisional ballots instead of regular ballots if they want to update their name or address in voting records at the polling place. That provision can affect newlyweds and college students, Democrats said.

"This is a personal attack on the people of Florida," Nelson said. "Look at history. Look at the provisional ballots in 2008. Fifty-five percent of them were discounted. Fifty-five percent of the people who cast a provisional ballot in the last presidential election, their vote did not count."

Republicans responded by criticizing Nelson for politicizing the capture of bin Laden.

"Senator Nelson's tactics amount to nothing more than an outrageous political stunt, motivated solely by his re-election campaign at the expense of our Armed Forces. His disgraceful suggestion that the Florida Legislature would attempt to diminish the voting rights of American heroes is offensive and untruthful," House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, said in a prepared statement.

Nelson was joined by Democratic lawmakers, Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, Leon County elections supervisor Ion Sancho and former Attorney General Bob Butterworth in criticizing the elections bill. They said Republicans are not responding to real problems of fraud, but rather trying to discourage people from voting.

"This is really the first step in what they think will give them a strategic advantage in the 2012 election," said Smith, who pointed to the 2000 presidential election when there were complaints of voter disenfranchisement. "If there's anything we should remember from the 2000 experience, every single vote ought to count and every single vote does count and anything that's aimed at doing less really is aimed at undermining participation and thus confidence in democracy."