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Florida Republicans’ Poll Tax Nostalgia

| October 12, 2012

Click on the image for larger view. (© Randall Enos/FlaglerLive)

Florida is poised to be a deciding factor in a national election yet again. As partisan wisdom has it, the state’s more heavily Democratic ranks could tip the state Barack Obama’s way–unless enough Democrats are discouraged from making it to the polls by Nov. 6. In a state of razor-thin margins, it doesn’t take big numbers to make a difference. Just a few well-calibrated skims here and there. So the GOP-dominated Florida Legislature is going out of its way to make voting more of a privilege than an absolute right. It’s giving the poll tax–a Florida invention dating back to 1889–a retro makeover.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Most Old South methods of barring people from voting don’t work so well anymore, at least not overtly. It takes the gall of legalized chicanery. That, too, has been a Florida tradition. The state does an excellent job of disenfranchising more than 800,000 ex-felons, for example, even though they’ve paid their debt. A disproportionate number of felons are minorities. By every demonstrable measure, minorities haven’t been Republicans’ best friends. So denying swaths of minorities the right to vote is an easy way to ensure that a large block of Democratic leaners never make it to the polls. And like the poor, it’s not as if ex-criminals can call on powerful constituencies to speak up for them.

But like a well-laundered bandit’s portfolio, voter suppression pays dividends only when it’s diversified.

So the Legislature reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight, even though a fifth of all ballots were cast that way in the 2010 election. It also turned voting registration rules into an obstacle course designed to keep third-party registration organizations like the League of Women Voters, which routinely register more Democrats than Republicans, from doing their job. For a while, it worked. Those organizations quit registering because the threat of punishing fines was too high. But a federal judge threw out the restrictions in late August, calling them harsh and impractical.

Finally the Legislature came up with its strangest voter-suppression scheme yet. Knowing that Americans hate to read, it turned the November ballot into a half-hour reading chore worthy of the dullest FCAT test. The ballot you’ll see on November 6 is the longest in history. It’ll stretch to four pages, much of it in the sort of fine print you see at the bottom of used car sales contracts in language approximating semi-literate Medieval English. That’s because the Legislature decided to include the full wording of every one of the 11 proposed constitutional amendments it’s throwing at voters.

Florida law requires that the amendments be summarized. But those summaries must pass the Supreme Court’s smell test. Several of them did not. The Supreme Court called them deceiving. So legislators, also called, with no hint of irony, lawmakers, exempted themselves from the law and forced supervisors of elections to publish the entire language of their proposals. It’ll almost certainly lengthen lines on election day and possibly discourage some voters who’ll grow tired of waiting, again achieving what lawmakers have been after all along: a lower voter turnout.

This is not to excuse lazy voters. If we Americans can shop for an average of 43 minutes a day–as we do, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics–we can certainly carve out 43 minutes every four years to vote. But there’s never a better time to get government out of the way than on Election Day. In Florida, state government is just about the only problem on that day.

There’s an easy way around the Legislature’s schemes. You can vote by absentee ballot even now. You can vote early beginning October 27. And the best thing you can do is learn about those 11 amendments ahead of time. You’ll discover that they’re all brazen attempts to undermine local government, channel public money to religious schools, or supposedly keep Obamacare from being enforced here, though that amendment itself would not be enforceable. The best thing to do is to vote no on all 11 amendments. It’ll take 30 seconds.

And the only thing you’ll be suppressing is the Legislature’s mania for bad laws and ideological tantrums.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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9 Responses for “Florida Republicans’ Poll Tax Nostalgia”

  1. dwferg says:

    Remember when there was NO early voting and absentee voting was restricted to demonstrated Need for absenteeism ?– Well today No one has to wait in line on election day – Anyone can request an absentee ballot(except the military who are the ones whose votes are really suppresed). Now it is said that by reducing the number of days to vote Early , this is some form of voter suppresion- PLEASE- Give me a break- I recall standing in line in 1980 for over an hour to get my vote to count & get rid of that incompetent President we had in there from Georgia.- I suspect many others on Nov. 6 th will wait hours to get that current resident @ 1600 Pennsylvania OUT of office so we can try to Save this country from further decline !!!!!!

  2. fred8131 says:

    Mr. Tristiam is correct, the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself. But, don’t be a sheep; ignore the brazen attempt by Mr. Tristam to lead you astray with the the last five sentences of this ideological tantrum.

    i guess it’s not a good thing to give combat injured vets or surviving spouses of vets and first responders or low income seniors who have lived here forever tax breaks.

    You don’t have to fill in the entire ballot for your vote to count on the items or for the people you do vote for. If you are to lazy to read the ballot then don’t vote on those items. If you are to lazy to do your research before you vote then don’t vote. If you are to lazy to vote during the extended voting times then don’t vote.

    Let us not forget who started the KKK; Southern Democrats I believe?

    • Anonymous says:

      The KKK was founded by Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate soldier, along with five other veterans of the Confederate Army.
      Although there was no organizational structure above the local level, similar groups arose across the South adopted the same name and methods. Klan groups spread throughout the South as an insurgent movement during the Reconstruction era in the United States. As a secret vigilante group, the Klan targeted freedmen and their allies; it sought to restore white supremacy by threats and violence, including murder, against black and white Republicans. In 1870 and 1871, the federal government passed the Force Acts, which were used to prosecute Klan crimes. Prosecution of Klan crimes and enforcement of the Force Acts suppressed Klan activity. In 1874 and later, however, newly organized and openly active paramilitary organizations, such as the White League and the Red Shirts, started a fresh round of violence aimed at suppressing blacks’ voting and running Republicans out of office. These contributed to segregationist white Democrats regaining political power in all the Southern states by 1877. Learn your history.

  3. Dorothea says:

    I do remember those good old days when we only had one day to vote. I also remember getting time off with pay to cast my ballot. For years we have made it easier to vote, but now it’s getting harder. Let’s put the restrictions on absentee ballots, where most Florida voter fraud occurs. Oops, forgot, many Republican snow-birds cast their votes by absentee ballots.

    Excerpt from website:

    “Has President Barack Obama caught the absentee ballot fever that has corrupted Florida’s electoral system? Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Tribune reported Barry’s reelection campaign is launching an “unprecedented program to encourage supporters to vote by absentee ballot right away.” Elections offices across the state mailed out absentee ballot request forms to voters on October 5. It’s fast becoming the most convenient way of casting ballots in the state with Gov. Rick Scott’s crackdown on early voting.

    But absentee ballots are also the easiest way to steal an election as Obama’s Republican adversaries in the Sunshine State know all too well.”


    I’ve posted this before, but you need to check your facts. There is NO attempt to suppress the military ballot. It’s just another Republican lie.

    Excerpt from the Fact Check:

    “Mitt Romney wrongly suggests the Obama campaign is trying to “undermine” the voting rights of military members through a lawsuit filed in Ohio. The suit seeks to block state legislation that limited early voting times for nonmilitary members; it doesn’t seek to impose restrictions on service members.”

  4. Brynn Newton says:

    Not voting on the amendments amounts to a yes vote, because the 60% needed to approve an amendment is 3/5 of those voting on the amendment, not 3/5 of those showing up to vote. I agree with Pierre — cut through the clutter and vote no on all.
    Art. XI s. (5)(e): Unless otherwise specifically provided for elsewhere in this constitution, if the proposed amendment or revision is approved by vote of at least sixty percent of the electors voting on the measure, it shall be effective as an amendment to or revision of the constitution of the state on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following the election, or on such other date as may be specified in the amendment or revision.

  5. Anonymous says:

    If Mr tristiam says to vote NO on all admendments then I will vote yes as they must be good.

  6. Ralph says:

    Mr. Pierre I need a ride to the polls. I am voting to fire the president and to limit the power of local governments to rob me blind. Thank you. I’ll be waiting for your response.

    If anyone has a link to the summaries of the amendments maybe they could be posted here since the author left out any help to understand them. Thanks.

    • Ron says:

      I found this website to be very beneficial in helping me make decisions on the 12 proposed amendments.

    • Helene says:

      Ralph: You should have received an “Official Sample Ballot” in the mail if you are a registered voter. If you do get a chance to read it, I hope you have a law degree as these amendments are hard to understand for highly educated people let alone those of limited schooling. I have found no one in my circle of friends and family (all fairly intelligent) who fully understands even half of the 12 amendments we are to decide on – myself included. Numbers 4 and 5 are exceptional doozies!! I mean really? Really? Even one of the shortest amendments – # 12 – leaves me scratching my head. Huh???
      How about going by the rule of KISS? You know – “keep it simple stupid”!
      The only thing we can do is vote NO on all. The question begs, does Florida need endless numbers of amendments continually added each year to its constitution? There is a point when it loses all meaning.

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