msnbc | June 22, 2012
>>> right now three federal judges in washington are considering how to rule on controversial changes to florida 's voting laws. lawyers for the state of florida faced off with the u.s. justice department for six hours on thursday. now, at issue is whether fewer early voting days and closing presinks on the sunday before election day placed an unfair burden on florida minorities. david, let's run through exactly some of the changes that ared a issue here. voting hours cut down the time they're open for early voting from 96 hours per week to as few as 48. they cut down on the number of early voting days from 12 to 8. and closed precincts on the sunday before election day . the justice department is arguing the case in court. explain on the broader impact why there is such concern for what this does to minority voters in florida .
>> absolutely. well, the idea is that in the 2008 election, many voters in florida took the opportunity to use early voting as a way to ensure their votes were counted. there were a dispronortiportionate number of for instance american that vo -- african-americans that voted this way. the state passed the law designed to reduce the hours and make it harter for minority voters in florida to participate in the electoral process . my organization, the naacp legal defense fund with several other civil rights groups, are litigating the case on the same side as the department of justice .
>> you talk about pushback. let me read you a quote from the spokesperson representing florida 's secretary of state. making sure an ineligible voter can't neutralize the vote of an eligible voter is a key part of upholding the integrity of florida elections. race and party don't play any role in the process whatsoever. how can the state of florida 's concerns over voter fraud be actually squared with concerns over voter suppression ? is there a middle ground to be met so both sides are happy? they always say a good compromise is where both sides walk away not being too happy.
>> absolutely. well, the laws that we're discussing right here are not about voter fraud or voter suppression . early voting is for eligible voters and the votes only get counted if you're on the rolls. the other thing florida did is they narrowed the opportunity for people to register voters, and then we have seen recently a new effort to purge voters. so what we are seeing is a whole list of ways to block voters at every stage of the process, and to your point about making sure only eligible voters vote, there are many protections in the process, and there has been no or very minimal demonstration of any problems, and yet at every phase of the elections we see efforts to narrow the polls and not expand them.
>> is this trying to find a solution to a problem that doesn't exist? read us between the lines here. what are we supposed to recognize. i think when we see the big uptick in minority participation and we see efforts to stop people from registering, from voting early, and making it harder to vote on election day and then purging the rolls as an election approaches, it is an effort to make it harder to vote. our democracy is about a choice. it's about a choice of having a path to participate for inclusion or in the alternative to narrow it and exclude people. i think florida needs to make a better choice.