Feds approve state election law changes

By STEVE BOUSQUET, Tallahassee Bureau Chief
Published January 24, 2008

Six days before Florida's statewide presidential preference primary, the U.S. Department of Justice on Wednesday approved three recent changes to state election laws and took no action on a fourth because it is the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Despite the federal approval that the state sought, the changes will not be put into effect at the polls because the decision came so close to the Jan. 29 primary.

In a letter to state officials, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division approved legislative changes excluding employer IDs or buyer club IDs as acceptable forms of identification at the polls; reducing from three days to two the period a voter who casts a provisional ballot can provide supporting documentation; and increasing penalties for third-party groups that violate the law in conducting voter registration drives.

The fourth change under review would require that before a voter can vote, the voter's driver's license number or last four digits of a Social Security number must be verified as accurate. The feds did not take action on the so-called matching provision because it is the subject of a federal lawsuit by voting rights groups.

Before Florida can implement changes to its election laws, the federal government must review and approve them because of past discrimination against voters in Hillsborough and four other counties.