Florida Senate - 2015 SB 1442 By Senator Braynon 36-01340A-15 20151442__ 1 A bill to be entitled 2 An act relating to elections; creating s. 97.0111, 3 F.S.; declaring the right to vote as a fundamental 4 right; prohibiting the state from restricting the 5 right to vote without a compelling interest; providing 6 equal protection of the right to vote; authorizing the 7 use of a violation of the act as a claim or defense in 8 a judicial proceeding; providing an effective date. 9 10 WHEREAS, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson signed the 11 Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law, which outlawed various 12 tactics used to prevent African Americans and other historically 13 underrepresented groups from registering to vote and 14 participating in the electoral process, and 15 WHEREAS, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 would not have 16 garnered the requisite support for passage were it not for the 17 grassroots efforts of ordinary Americans from all backgrounds, 18 and 19 WHEREAS, on March 7, 1965, hundreds of marchers who 20 supported the fundamental right to vote and other civil rights 21 were brutally beaten as they crossed the Edmund Pettis Bridge in 22 Selma, Alabama, an act that raised awareness of the American 23 people of the violent harassment of those who sought to exercise 24 the right to vote, and 25 WHEREAS, the events in Selma prompted more than 25,000 26 people of conscience to travel to Alabama to support those who 27 were attacked and complete the march from Selma to Montgomery, 28 which spurred Congress to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 29 several months later, and 30 WHEREAS, by the end of the 20th century, the marchers’ 31 sacrifice and the subsequent passage of the Voting Rights Act of 32 1965 helped to significantly curtail racial disparity among 33 those registered to vote, resulting in an exponential increase 34 in the number of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American 35 voters and the diversification of elected officials serving at 36 all levels of government, and 37 WHEREAS, despite the proud achievements and legacy of the 38 Voting Rights Act of 1965, voting rights protections are 39 currently being scaled back at both the local and the national 40 level, and 41 WHEREAS, on June 25, 2013, the Supreme Court of the United 42 States in Shelby County v. Holder, 133 S. Ct. 2612, 186 L. Ed. 43 2d 651, overturned portions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 44 prompting a dysfunctional Congress to begin examining how to 45 restore all portions of the law, and 46 WHEREAS, for more than a decade, Floridians have witnessed 47 changes that have made it more difficult to vote, such as 48 repeated threats to remove thousands of eligible voters from the 49 voter rolls, reductions in the number of mandatory early voting 50 days, and attempts to severely limit help for voters who need 51 election assistance, and 52 WHEREAS, such changes in the election process have 53 reinforced Florida’s dubious reputation as a state where voting 54 is less a right than a privilege and not all votes are counted, 55 and 56 WHEREAS, the Legislature is committed to ensuring that this 57 state protects the fundamental right of all Floridians to cast a 58 ballot and have their voices heard, NOW, THEREFORE, 59 60 Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida: 61 62 Section 1. Section 97.0111, Florida Statutes, is created to 63 read: 64 97.0111 Rights of the electorate.— 65 (1) The right to vote is a fundamental right. This 66 fundamental right requires that voting be free and fair. The 67 state may not deny or restrict the right to vote without a 68 compelling state interest. Any denial of or restriction on 69 voting rights by the state must use the least restrictive means 70 in advancing the compelling state interest. 71 (2) Each United States citizen who is at least 18 years of 72 age and who is a resident of this state has equal protection of 73 his or her right to vote. 74 (3) A person whose right to vote has been denied or 75 abridged by this state or its political subdivisions or by any 76 private or public entity or person in violation of this section 77 may assert such violation as a claim or defense in a judicial 78 proceeding to obtain appropriate relief. 79 Section 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law.