Democrats are coming to Broward as part of a national voting rights effort

Broward County was ground zero for claims of election fraud, blown deadlines, lawsuits and incompetence during the 2018 election.

Now, Democrats are coming from Washington to hold hearings in Fort Lauderdale as part of a national effort to examine voting rights and election administration issues.

On Monday, four members of the Committee on House Administration, along with local Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Alcee Hastings, will hold an official field hearing at the Broward County Governmental Center. Former gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum, who is leading an effort to register one million new voters ahead of the 2020 election, is among the witnesses.

Since taking control of the House in November, House Democrats, led by Ohio Rep. Marcia Fudge, had or are planning hearings and listening sessions in Brownsville, Texas, Atlanta, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Alabama and Washington, D.C. The Atlanta hearing included former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and Gillum ally Stacey Abrams, and Republicans argued that her testimony was being used to raise her political profile.

Democrats are using the hearings to build evidence for future legislation that would require certain states to obtain federal pre-clearance before changing any voting laws or practices. In a landmark 2013 case, the Supreme Court ruled that a provision in the Voting Rights Act designed to prevent laws or policies that deny people the right to vote based on race was unconstitutional. Since the decision, certain states have tried to pass voter ID laws or revived voter ID laws that were declared invalid by the federal government.

The Brennan Center for Justice found that polling places in states like Florida that were once subject to federal pre-clearance before 2013 were shuttered at a higher rate than states that were not subject to pre-clearance and that the shuttered polling places were concentrated in majority black areas. States that were once subject to federal pre-clearance also purged voters from their rolls at a higher rate, potentially keeping voters who thought they were registered from voting on Election Day.

The Florida hearing will also likely focus on bills in the state Legislature that would require former felons to pay fees before getting their right to vote after voters approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 that restored voting rights to 1.4 million people with prior felony convictions who completed their sentences.

Broward, where Democrats must win by large margins to capture statewide races, was at the center of a ballot design controversy that led to undervotes that might have gone to Democrat Bill Nelson. Former Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes had placed the U.S. Senate race below a lengthy set of instructions, against federal recommendations.

Republicans protested outside Broward’s election offices during mandated statewide recounts in the U.S. Senate race, gubernatorial race and agriculture commissioner race. Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher and accepted Snipes’ resignation after taking office in January.