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Echoes of Rosa Parks? Some Local Officials Say No To New Anti-Voter Laws

A handful of election officials in Pennsylvania, Florida and Colorado are rebelling against new laws and rules that could create barriers to voting this fall.

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Election officials typically are cut from a different cloth than their state’s top politicians. They are first and foremost civil servants, not political animals, who feel that the right to vote is fundamental and hard-won—with constitutional amendments over the decades and a civil rights movement that expanded the franchise—and that those gains must be protected. They know that voting is a complex process—where mistakes can be made, often by poll workers on Election Day, and they tend to resent efforts to complicate or politicize the process.

Moreover, in Florida, experienced administrators recall the 2000 presidential election.   

“Those of us who were here in 2000 remember the effect that inaccurate felons lists, another database, what it did—and it is still roiling the state today, some 12 years later,” Sancho said, explaining their rebellion against the state’s executive branch. “We’re simply not going to go through that again.” As Deborah Clark, the Pinellas County Election Supervisor and a Republican, said, “We will not use unreliable data.”

In Florida, and to a smaller degree in Pennsylvania and Colorado, the handful of local election officials who are saying no to voter suppression is a striking but important development in 2012’s electoral landscape. It suggests that the officials who have the responsibility to make the process work have had enough with partisan games. 

“I run into people all the time who thank me for what I am doing to protect their vote,” said Sancho, who is running unopposed for a seventh term as election supervisor. “The fact that the citizens support me on this issue emboldens me.”

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's retirement crisis, democracy and voting rights, and campaigns and elections. He is the author of "Count My Vote: A Citizen's Guide to Voting" (AlterNet Books, 2008).