Florida GOP Legalizes Voter Suppression, Including a Return to Jim Crow
This is Part XXIV of MY STUPID STATE where I document what happens when a state full of Democrats elect a veto-proof, right-wing legislature along with a teabag, CRIMINAL governor to lead us. (Once again, yes--an actual bona-fide criminal who literally stole from seniors, who subsequently elected him.) This is my documentation of my beloved but idiotic state of Florida's slow descent into chaos.
The GOP completely dominates Florida government. Through a sick combination of financial corruption, massive gerrymandering, a very lame state Dem party, and (until very recently) a low information voter epidemic.
They not only have a right-wing felon in the governor's mansion, but hold every statewide office sans one Senate seat.
They completely dominate the state legislature: an 80-39 seat advantage in the House and 28-12 advantage in the Senate. (Gerrymandering is so bad that NO ONE lost their seat in the 2006/2008 blue waves.)
The teabag legislation this session has ranged from funny to frightening. And they don't want anyone to stop their good times.
The ONLY thing that can stand in their way are two factors:
1. The independent court system
2. A very angry, recently awakened electorate.
This week, the GOP teabag lawmakers went after BOTH of them with guns blazing. Priority one is
jobs holding on to power.
This was originally going to be a diary on both of those efforts, but I had to split them up or this would be one big hairy diary. Today you will see the Voter Suppression bill, which is poised to pass. Next I will look at their strategy for dismantling the courts.
I have been a poll watcher ever since the 2000 election. One thing I fought hard against were republican poll workers who tried to always give provisional ballots out when they weren't warranted. Why?
MOST PROVISIONAL BALLOTS ARE NOT COUNTED!!!!
According to the Advancement Project, in 2008, 51% of provisional ballots in Florida were not counted.
Naturally, the GOP is determined to give likely Dem voters provisional ballots. Lessee.. women, minorities, and college students.
Here is what the 100+ page Voter Suppression bill does to you:
- Women. Name change? No vote for you! Since the civil rights era, if you changed your marital status you could update your information at the polls and vote a regular ballot that is guaranteed to be counted. No more. Tens of thousands of newly married women voters in 2012 will be forced to use the shifty provisional ballots.
- College students. The largest population that requires address changes are college students. If they failed to notify the elections supervisor of their new address long before the election, they too will no longer get a regular ballot. Again, for 40 years you could update your address at the polls. For 40 years there has never been a problem with this.. .until now.
- Dark skin? Democrat? Gotta love this one:
There are many other new regulations, several depriving voters of their chance to work out problems at the polls. For instance, if voters are challenged for any reason, they would be required to cast a provisional ballot. And they could not receive legal help while in line, as before.
The Florida GOP is wasting no time with this one. They are already staging vote caging operations for 2012. Thanks!
Horrified? Thought you would be. But it gets even better:
- Voter-registration groups would have to register all their volunteers and paid staff with the state’s Division of Supervisors of Elections, which would then create a database. What's the purpose of the database? NO ONE KNOWS. But in a state where they don't want to make a pill-mill database because it violates the privacy of drug dealers have no trouble with a database that records information of people who just want to help others vote.
- Restrict the ability of news media and bloggers to take video or audio of voters at polling places. Nice. This is a little gift to those vote-cagers we talked about.
- Volunteers have to turn in registration forms within 48 hours, are face fines and possible criminal penalties.
Why this? The legislature has tried unsuccessfully in the past to outlaw 3rd party registration groups... so they are trying to eliminate them indirectly. Case in point, the League of Women Voters in Florida said they may have to cease voter registration if this passes.
- Now non-partisan, elected, county supervisors of elections willl be put under the control of the politically appointed Secretary of State. The Secretary would have the ability to issue orders to these county officials or remove those who do not comply!
- Cut early voting in half (most early voting is done by Democrats)
- Cut time for citizen-led initiatives to gain the required 600.000 signatures from four years to just 20 months.
As a side note, any meaningful reform has come from these citizen initiatives--like Fair Districts (which is under attack). This is just the first step in the eventual elimination of these intiatives.
The GOP was asked by a few in the media why they are so hell-bent on disenfranching voters. They claim it is all an effort to "stamp out fraud".
Interesting, since even our Sec of State had to admit he could find no cases of voter fraud. The former GOP chairman told the media to talk with the election supervisors about all the fraud... except none of them, NOT EVEN THE GOP ONES, claim there has been any.
What can we do?
Contact your legislator. Yes. If GOP it may fall on deaf ears but we've had success restoring funding to disabled kids, stopping the destruction of our parks, and halting the AZ anti-brown people law. They sense the backlash and some may want to pick their battles. If Dem, tell them to fight this in court after they vote against it or contact the DOJ.
In fact, you contact the DOJ. Poll taxes, literacy tests, and other forms of suppression are why the federal govenrnment got involved and review changes in our voting laws under the Voting Rights Act. I strongly feel these attacks warrant intervention.
The governor has already made it so people who have paid their debt to society cannot vote for 5-7 years after release, with the sole intention of taking 1 million minorities out of the equation for upcoming elections. The ACLU, noting that this was the original law put in place for retaliaion of the 15th amendment, is taking up that cause after our attorney general said that this somehow didn't apply to the Voting Rights Act.
I can't stop the Voter Suppression bill from becoming law, but I'll be damned if I let this go quietly.