Voting Rights Act

A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Florida to devise a new way to decide when and how former prisoners can get their voting rights restored, saying Gov. Rick Scott and state officials can no longer rely on "whims, passing emotions, or perceptions" in that process.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker also blocked the state's current system of forcing most ex-felons to wait at least five years before they can ask to have their voting rights restored.

The system was put in place back in 2011 at the urging of Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi.

Plans submitted by Manatee Supervisor of Elections Mike Bennett to trim the number of precincts from 99 to 69 are slated for review Tuesday by the Manatee County Commission. "I think the people most adversely affected by the changes were not taken into consideration," said Susie Copeland, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People president. "The more affluent community was left alone, and as far as their polling place, they didn't suffer same kind of closings as poorer neighborhoods."

A bipartisan group of lawmakers took the first step Thursday to patch a gaping hole in the 1965 Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court eviscerated a key part of the law that allowed for federal oversight of states with a history of ballot box discrimination.

It didn't take long after the news broke about the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision tossing out a key piece of the Voting Rights Act for the fears of voting advocates, or the hopes of VRA critics, to be realized.

Hillsborough County is one of five Florida counties affected by the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling this morning on the Voting Rights Act. While the court didn't strike down the law's provision that requires federal monitoring of elections in certain states and counties, including Hillsborough, the justices said lawmakers will have to update the formula that put those regions on the list.

By a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court has struck down a key provision of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act that establishes a formula to identify states that may require extra scrutiny by the Justice Department regarding voting procedures.

The decision focuses on Section 4 of the Act.