Democrats were quick to note that Latvalas inability to provide evidence of voter fraud by interpreters had echoes of the 2011 debate over the law known as House Bill 1355. It limited pre-Election Day early voting, loaded constitutional amendments onto the ballot and cracked down on voter-registration drives.
Republican lawmakers said the bill was needed to cut down on fraud, but they provided no evidence of fraud committed during early voting at which Democrats excelled.
Plus, the bill that they said targeted fraud did nothing to target the most likely type of illegal voting: absentee ballots, which Republicans excel at casting.
By limiting early voting and including lengthy, time-consuming amendments on the ballot, the Legislature helped create long lines at the polls. Some people cast ballots well after midnight after eight-hour waits. Many dropped out of line, unable to vote early on weekdays and unable to cast ballots on Election Day because they had to get to work.
Those problems should largely go away under Latvalas new bill, which would increase early voting again, expand the types of sites where early voting can be offered and would limit lengthy ballot questions. A House bill has similar provisions to reverse the effects of HB 1355.
Miami-Dade has Floridas largest number of foreign-born and foreign-language voters many of whom lean Democratic and would therefore be more affected by the limitation on interpreters in the Senate bill. SEIU Florida, a union, reported providing about 4,000 voters throughout South Florida with voter translation and literacy assistance.
Still, the limitation is not likely to have the broad vote-suppressing effects of HB 1355 because it affects a smaller segment of the electorate.
Also, HB 1355 was not the sole reason for Election Day problems. Miami-Dade failed to properly equip or provide some adequate polling stations, leaving too few voting booths for too many voters who needed to take too much time because of the too-long ballots.
As a result, Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, an architect of HB 1355, offered a controversial amendment that was aimed at Miami-Dades elections supervisor, Penelope Townsley.
The amendment, approved on a close and largely party-line vote, gives the secretary of state the authority to place a county supervisor of election on noncompliant status, including the loss of $2,000 in salary. After three years of a supervisors noncompliance, the secretary can recommend that the governor remove the supervisor.
Its more symbolic than anything else, Diaz de la Portilla said. Its not about removal from office. Only the governor can do that.
While that amendment caused a stir in Tallahassee, the crackdown on interpreters was of more concern to voting-rights groups, Victors godson and many in the Haitian community.
I feel very unhappy with this, he said. They should not make it harder. In North Miami you have many people who really only speak Creole and they need help to vote.
Miami Herald staff writers Nadege Green and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.