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Florida’s Disgraceful New Limits on Voting

| January 28, 2012

Detail from Richard Schreiner's 'Non-Being,' at Hollingsworth Gallery in Palm Coast. (© FlaglerLive)

By Martin Merzer

The upcoming election is about to be stolen – or, at the very least, rigged – and thousands of your neighbors and, in some cases, your children, are about to be disenfranchised.

And there is a good chance that you have heard little or nothing about it – surely not on an ongoing basis or with the appropriate magnitude of concern.

Since achieving strong legislative majorities in Florida and a dozen other states, Republicans have pushed through – and Gov. Rick “Fifth Amendment” Scott and other Republican governors have signed – numerous laws that restrict or impair voting rights.

In Florida, for instance:

Recent extensions of early voting days and hours, a hugely popular advance, are being reversed. The two-week period has been cut to eight days. And voting is now outlawed on the Sunday before Election Day, when predominantly black churches often sponsored post-service voting drives.

Groups that conduct voter registration drives, often focused on minorities and college students, must jump over a variety of hurdles and submit each form within 48 hours of it being signed – a physical impossibility for the most active groups. Previously, they had 10 days. As a result, the League of Women Voters of Florida has suspended its voter registration effort – and filed a federal lawsuit.

It is now much harder for Floridians who move to stay registered and vote.

The new restraints are nearly identical, in state after state. No big surprise, given that the playbook was written and distributed by some of the same self-interested billionaires who fund, directly or indirectly, many Republican campaigns.

The cover story: These actions are required, the Republicans say, to combat voter fraud.

florida voices columnists flaglerlive

The reality: Election supervisors say voter fraud is virtually non-existent. The state reportedly investigated only 31 alleged cases of voter fraud between January 2008 and March 2011. (More than eight million Floridians voted in 2008 alone). The U.S. Justice Department looked into this between 2002 and 2007 and could find no one who impersonated an eligible voter.

More reality: Nearly all of the steps taken by these laws affect minorities, the working poor and the young, groups more likely to support Democrats than Republicans. There can be no doubt that these actions are intended to discourage such people from voting.

Consider these actual quotes from Republican legislators, people who otherwise have no problem wrapping themselves in American flags as they laud their devotion to democracy:

State Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton: “But I have to tell you, I don’t have a problem making it harder. I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert. This should not be easy.”

And from State Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale: “Democracy should not be a convenience.”

So, where are the state’s Democratic leaders on this? Nowhere, aside from emailing a few pro forma, issued-by-press-release complaints as these laws were being pushed through.

Where are the visits to editorial boards? The calls for public protests outside Fifth’s mansion or Bogdanoff’s office? The organization of peaceful demonstrations on campuses and outside county election boards?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Scott, Bennett, Bogdanoff and other Republicans are eating the Democrats’ lunch and, more importantly, undermining the fundamentals of the democracy they’re so quick to publicly embrace.

They are attempting to disenfranchise tens of thousands of voters or prospective voters. They are working to make voting more difficult for the rest of us. They are seeking to rig a state and national election.

And not a single, sustained effort by Democrats to focus public attention on it. What, exactly, do these state Democratic “leaders” do all day long? If they can’t get roused about this, what will it take?

Disgraceful. Obscene. All of it.

Formerly The Miami Herald’s senior writer, Martin Merzer recently retired after a 35-year newspaper career and now lives in Tallahassee, where he closely monitors political developments. He can be reached by email here.

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20 Responses for “Florida’s Disgraceful New Limits on Voting”

  1. Yellowstone says:

    I wonder why the GOP doesn’t worry about disenfranchising some of their voters? Afterall, not all GOP voters live the ‘high-life’

    • tjm says:

      WRONG not all GOP live the high life, NEVER in the state where I came from would they allow the early voting. If you did not have the desire to go out and Vote on election day, You did not deserve to VOTE!! also they would never allow “field trips” to the polls like they did in South Fl. And I am from a Democratic state. They help seal the deal with Nobama…

  2. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    And yet they keep getting away with this garbage; WHY???

  3. Outsider says:

    I really can’t understand why people can’t figure the voting thing out. You register to vote, and then you either go vote early or you go on election day. I voted yesterday, and I had lost my voter registration card. No problem, just show us a picture ID and give us your social security number. This was all done in under five minutes. I’m sorry, but if you have not registered by election day, or if it takes a group of church goers to prod you into voting two days before election day, your level of interest, and more importantly, your knowledge of the issues is woefully inadequate.

  4. tjm says:

    Also there was more voter fraud this last Presidential Election that ever before. Thanks to ACORN and groups just like them. SO it should be harder to go out and register people. After all they get registered when they get a drivers License or State ID. What more should we do for the people who are to lazy to vote on election day… Oh and by the Way wasn’t it out Spender in chief who was the Attorney who organized ACORN? And worked for them? Lets do what the BRITS did. CREATE a bigger welfare state so that creates a whole new voting block. That will always keep LIBERALS in office who think the wealthy don’t deserve what they worked for. LOOK at Argentina. The Industrial Capital of South America until they created a WELFARE country. No one wants to work. And Socialism sure does not work in Europe Look at all the financial issues there. I say GET a LIFE and GET a JOB.. I know I lost mine in 2007 and took what ever work I could to support my family. WORK that before 2007 I would have said I would never do!

  5. Jojo says:

    …Mr.Merzer is right! Where are the Democrates on this??? Are they overwhelmed or just incompetent.

    • Doug Chozianin says:

      Answer: Democrats are incompetent.

      (That’s why they need all sorts of TAXPAYER supported government programs to help them get through life.)

      Where have you gone, Herbert Spencer & Charles Darwin?

  6. SAW says:

    People around the world get slaughtered every day just trying to get their right to cast their vote.

    Not the case in our country, we bend over backwards and constantly plead with people to register and vote we need to stop babying people.

    What’s next give them a year to vote ? I say it is a responsibility of the individual to vote, and if people cannot find an hour to do so they are probably not interested or informed anyway.

    My opinion, much less time to vote say two days, and instead more school days in the year, so Johnny can read.

  7. "My Daily Rant" says:

    Well Mr. Merzer doesnt seem like to many people agree with you.I am an Independent voter used to be democrat and think voting should be done on assigned days not through out the year,and for minorites I really feel bad that we cant fit voting into a time that better suits their needs, guess they will have to vote with the rest of us.Picture IDs hell I have to show one when I drive, buy licquor,anytime a police officer asks for one I would expect nothing less when voting.

  8. youngrepublican says:

    All I can say is remember ACORN. We need stricter voting laws. If voting fraud wasnt a problem then why is an executive board member of the Missisppi NAACP doing prison time for voter fraud? Maybe because she cast ten absentee ballots under ten different identities? The changes in the voters laws are a direct result of the rampant fraud that was found after the last presidential election. If you want to blame anyone for the change, blame ACORN.( or what ever name they have rebranded thenselves under) If you cannot identify who you are then why should you be allowed to vote? It is only common sense.

  9. some guy says:

    Really is this that big of a deal ONLY 8 DAYS of early voting and ending it on the last day of the week before the real voting day? Also having to turn in the voter registration forms within 48 hrs whats the big deal with that it just gives time for verifying them. I agree that voting is being made way to easy one should make some sacrifice in time to vote. Just having more and more people voting in of itself does not = a better Republic.

  10. Jordyn says:

    Please explain how having eight extra days to vote is “rigging” the election. You can register to vote at any time throughout the year. You have over a week of time to show up and cast your vote. If you don’t have your voter card, no problem, just bring your picture id. It could not possibly be easier to vote.

  11. Kip Durocher says:

    For several decades, at least since Nixon, the right has persuaded middle- and lower-income Americans to vote against their own economic self-interest, by diverting their attention to “values” issues such as affirmative action, abortion or the sanctity of the flag. Upending the old rule that people vote with their wallets, Republicans understood that cultural anxieties – artfully inflamed and stoked – could shift voters’ allegiances, even if that came at those voters’ expense.
    The Koch brother’s Tea Party right has sought to channel Americans’ fury at the post-2008 economic crisis not at its rightful target – Wall Street banksters – but at Washington, casting “big government” as the villain.
    If only Washington were less intrusive and cut red tape, if only it spent less, then all would be well. So it is that the man on unemployment insurance ends up demanding action that helps not him, but the CEO on his yacht.
    All these new laws from Glow Scott remind me of Jim Crow in Florida when I was young. Black people could
    vote for the candidate they were told to vote for.
    “Voter fraud” is just another bull shit repuglican “values” smoke screen.
    Why did Glow Scott withdraw the amendments that 65% of the Florida voters had approved and use tax money to sue to have them thrown out after they had been submitted for law by the last governor?
    Because Glow Scott does not give a shit what voters think or want.

    • Linda says:

      Kip, Congress IS responsible because they pass all those regulations for Wall Street and the banks. Those bankers, including Mitt Romney, pay big money to influence the people passing these laws. The bigger the government gets, the more money it costs us to pay for it. Not only are we paying for the new programs, we are paying salaries, benefits and retirement. It just keeps growing, nobody is cutting back.

      What shouldn’t government be fiscally responsible and live within our means? What would happen here in Flagler if our government was doing the same?

      You complain about laws being passed by Gov. Scott, but it doesn’t bother you that the President is busy passing his own laws by Executive Orders, bypassing the Congress.

      You also seem to forget that it was Republicans who traveled to the south to stand in the polling places to make sure people were allowed to register when the Dixiecrats were trying to stop them. Dr. Martin Luther King was a Republican.

      Nobody wants to make it harder for anybody to register to vote. On the contrary, we want them to register and participate, which in this town is our biggest problem. The last two elections were shams. You get the kind of government you participate in.

  12. Christie 2012 says:

    If it doesn’t benefit a democrat, than it’s not fair!!!!!!

  13. Will Allen says:

    I just can’t for the life of me figure out why voting takes place on a workday. I know why
    they chose November, that being after the harvest was collected. Supposedly, folks would
    have less on their minds and could take the time to discuss politicking. I’ve heard it over my
    lifetime, “I couldn’t vote because I had to work,” and then there’s excuses and warnings
    broadcast that if the weather’s bad, it’ll keep people away. I like the idea of voting on a
    Saturday. The primaries that have them get a pretty good response. But I wouldn’t want to
    offend our Jewish brethren causing them to break the Sabbath. The way I see it. Voting is a right
    and making it convenient is the best way to get the most people to vote. After all, if everybody
    who complained about elected officials actually voted we might not be the country with the lowest
    voter turnout percentage, and the results, and history afterwards might be a whole lot different.

  14. NortonSmitty says:

    Baaa! baaaBaaa Baba. BBaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! BaaaBaaBaaa ACORN Baaa? BaaaaaaBaaaabaaBababaaa three feet of snowbaaaabaaa! BaaaBaaaaa-Baabbaaa. Babbabaaa. BaaabaaaBaaababa socialist Baaa. Baaaabaaaa baa bbbaaaaa BAAAA! Bababaaaaba baaaa baaaaa-baa. George Soros.

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