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Report Shows How Far Florida and Other States Are Scuttling Voting Rights and Turnout

| October 3, 2011

They know a thing or two about voter suppression.

Last May 19, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a 158-page bill that significantly scaled back voting rights gains of the last several decades.

“I want people to vote, but I also want to make sure there’s no fraud involved in elections,” Scott said in Tallahassee as he signed the bill. But there was no documented fraud of any concern in the state. Supervisor of Elections across the state disputed the claim that their databases were inaccurate or needed buttressing and warned of chaos ahead because of the new rules.

The law, widely seen as an attempt by the GOP-dominated legislature to make it harder to vote for those who tend to be Democratic, reduces early voting–an increasingly popular option in Flagler County–from 15 days to eight (in the mayoral election last month, a third of votes cast were in early voting). The law imposes $1,000-per-mistake fines on groups that register voters when the registration forms aren’t submitted within 48 hours, and requires those groups to register with the state. The law also eliminates a four-decade-old policy that allowed registered voters who have moved across county lines to update their address the day they vote. And it turns back voting rights granted ex-felons who’ve paid their debt, rights that had been secured by a cabinet vote during Gov. Charlie Crist’s administration.

Florida is one of 14 states that passed similarly sweeping laws. The legislature of every state that did so, with one exception, is dominated by Republicans. Rhode Island is the exception, where a Democratic legislature enacted its voting rights revamp and an independent governor signed the bill into law. The bills drew overwhelming opposition from constituents. In Florida, the voting bill drew more responses than any other in the last session, netting 15,443 emails to the governor’s office alone–overwhelmingly in opposition to the new law. “This is the most undemocratic, regressive, anti-voter, partisan proposal I have ever seen in my memory,” went one email, by Gainesville resident Joe T. McCullough Jr.

It was clear the laws would have some effect on the 2012 election’s turnout, since every law is designed to make voting more difficult and more discriminating–not more inclusive or easier. But it was not clear until today to what potential extent the laws would affect turnout. The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law has now calculated that effect as part of a 58-page study released today. (See the full study below.)

According to the study’s conclusions, “These new restrictions fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the 18 laws and two executive actions that passed in 13 states, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.

  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 165 electoral votes in 2012 – 61 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, four have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

Some 3.2 million voters will be affected by new photo ID laws nationwide. That requirement had already been in effect in Florida. One to 2 million voters will be affected by the change to early voting days, which will significantly impact Florida. And at least 100,000 disenfranchised voters, most of them in Florida, could have regained their voting rights by the 2012 election had the state not intervened to prevent them from doing so. Of the 2.13 million people who registered to vote in 2008 in Florida, more than 8 percent, or at least 176,000, did so through organizations such as the League of Women Voters–and helped power Barack Obama to the presidency. Florida tipped in Obama’s favor in that election.

The League of Women Voters, a leading voting-registration organization, has all but halted its registration drives in Florida for fear of being slapped with outsized fines. Texas is the only other state to take measures against third-party voter registration organizations, as Florida did.

The vote on the elections bill in the Florida House was 77-38, and 25-13 in the Senate, with Democratic opposition and only Republican Sens. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey and Paula Dockery of Lakeland voting no. “Florida has always been a state that has been open in having access to voting for legal residents. In fact, we brag about that,” Fasano told the St. Petersburg Times. “This bill reduces that access.”

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3 Responses for “Report Shows How Far Florida and Other States Are Scuttling Voting Rights and Turnout”

  1. Riley says:

    Thanks to the efforts of scumbag Republicans.

  2. NortonSmitty says:

    So you get a DUI and you lose the right to choose the people that will control your life forever? And this was enacted by the stroke of a pen by our elected Republican Governor. You know, the Ex CEO of Columbia Healthcare.

    The corporation that PLEAD GUILTY to Stealing at least $1,700,000,000.00 ($1.7 Billion) of our tax dollars by fraudulently billing Medicaid, Medicare, The Department of Defense, Etc. You know, your tax dollars. They negotiated a Sweetheart Plea of Guilty to just $1.7 Billion of theft and agreed to pay to the Bush Justice dept. $840 Billion in fines. Less than half of what they admitted they stole! Even the Bush Justice Dept. said it was definitely over $4 billion!

    In an unrelated matter, Scott and Columbia Health Care were one of the largest donors to the GOP for 9 years. And that’s what they agreed to plead to! Who knows what they actually stole! And they plead, admitted, copped to whatever TO COMMITTING 17 FELONY’S! And our esteemed Governor somehow resigned 4 months before this agreement. So he is as innocent as the driven slush.

    So if you do the basic math with just to the money that this piece of shit admitted to stealing, this left him with so much money in his pocket he spent $78 Million of his own money compared to the Democrats Alex Smiths $30 million total. And he won bu 1.29% of the vote. By by any reasonable criterion, he bought the election with money he stole from all of us.

    And this piece of shit declares with the stroke of a pen that hundreds of thousands of our neighbors and family and friends and citizens are instantly not good enough to choose who makes the rules they must live under? Because they probably won’t vote the way he and his Billionaire croneys want?

    Jesus Christ on a crutch, just what does it take to piss you fucking sheep off enough to rise up?

  3. Nancy N. says:

    Yeah, what Norton Smitty said. Because really, who can follow that act? LOL

    With every new action that Rick Scott takes it becomes more and more apparent that the citizens of this state are just pawns and/or inconveniences in his plans to make money for him and his cronies.

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