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.
   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,
   60  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   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.