Florida Republicans look to shorten the early voting period, make it harder to change your voting address, and force more people into provisional ballots, which are often not counted. Meanwhile, they find ways to make absentee voting easier. Guess which party does better on absentee, versus early, voting?
They’re not even hiding it anymore. Florida Republicans are taking outrageous steps to turn Florida into Mississippi — a ruby red state where Democrats can’t win, even with a sizable minority population — and they’re doing it by any means necessary.
From packing the courts by literally splitting the Supreme Court so Gov. Rick Scott can score three appointments, the better to game redistricting, to their latest schemes that would hobble the kinds of voting options that have historically favored Democrats: early voting and same day registration, which have been critical to getting sizable numbers of black, Hispanic and young voters to the polls, particularly in presidential elections.
Florida Republicans are going on offense to ensure that the 2012 election is over before it even begins.
From the Miami Herald:
TALLAHASSEE — — With Florida a crucial state in the 2012 presidential election, the state Legislature wants to overhaul election laws in ways critics say would help the Republican Party maintain its dominance.
The Senate is pushing a bill to cut early voting time by half, make it harder for grass roots groups to register voters and require people to vote provisionally if they moved since the last time they voted — a change elections supervisors say would affect college students the most. The bill, SB 2086, passed the Republican-controlled Rules Committee on Friday on a 10-2 vote.
Legislators say their goal is more convenient and less expensive voting machinery. But with President Barack Obama needing Florida’s 29 electoral votes to win a second term, skeptics say the GOP-dominated Legislature is showing it has more than a passing interest in how the next election is run. All 160 legislative seats also will be up for grabs in 2012 because of reapportionment.
The 140-page Senate elections amendment was sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, who chairs the Rules Committee and is the immediate past chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, defended the bill as voter-friendly, noting that it makes it easier for voters to request absentee ballots. But the proposed changes drew fire from election supervisors as well as the League of Women Voters, which successfully sued the state to block a previous round of restrictions on third-party voter registration efforts.
“We would hope to avoid going back to court,” said Ben Wilcox of the League of Women Voters. “We believe that citizens should be active, engaged, and informed participants in democracy.”
The bill also would push back the primary election by one week to Sept. 4, the day after the three-day Labor Day weekend holiday. Supporters said the change is needed so that the election won’t conflict with the Republican National Convention in Tampa, scheduled the previous week. Moving the primary would allow fundraising to continue during the GOP convention.
The bill would force voters who do not go to the correct precincts to cast provisional ballots — which are only counted in some cases. Since 1973, Florida has allowed voters to update their address at a polling place.
Elections supervisors oppose a provision that allows Secretary of State Kurt Browning, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, to issue written orders to supervisors, who are elected constitutional officers.
But what drew the most heat Friday was the Senate’s insistence that early voting be curtailed from two weeks to one. A surge in early voting was widely cited as a major factor in Obama’s 2008 victory in Florida, and then-Gov. Charlie Crist extended early voting hours because of long lines at early voting centers.
“Generally, early voting in Miami-Dade County has not been very efficient,” Diaz de la Portilla said. “What you see more often than not is that there is a trickle of two or three people a day at a very high cost to keep those public libraries and polls open. … We felt it was an efficiency measure.”
Sen. Gwen Margolis, D-Aventura, said the crush of early voters in the last presidential election showed that two weeks of early voting is not enough. She called the bill a “Machiavellian” act by Republicans.
“It will disenfranchise and really anger a lot of people who are standing in line,” Margolis said. “I just think that it’s a very, very bad thing to do.”
And that’s not all:
Friday’s developments came a day after the House advanced its own controversial election bill, HB 1355, which also imposes new registration requirements and time limits on third-party voter registration drives that do not also apply to political parties.
Early voting was crucial to Barack Obama’s presidential win in Florida and other key states in 2008, and Republicans know it. The Florida Republican Party has always been aces at turning in absentee ballots. And they’ve also lagged behind Democrats in year over year voter registration, so they’ve got to put a stop to that. And Rick Scott has already killed former Gov. Charlie Crist’s easing of felon rights restoration, setting Florida back to the Jim Crow era and preventing even more people from “voting for the wrong party.”
By the way, Gary “Jump the Fence” Siplin of Orlando, who supposedly is a Democrat, but who votes more often with Republicans than any Democrat I’ve ever seen, also voted for this. (He also voted for the Republicans’ “kick the walkers out from under the disabled kids and slash the schools” budget, and he’s on the record as an “aye” on the woman-humiliating a href=”http://pushingrope.blogspot.com/2008/04/ultrasound-abortion-vote-near.html”>forced ultrasound bills, and for the “leadership funds” cash for politics bill that Charlie Crist vetoed, but which the “for sale” crew in Tallahassee overrode this spring. Micheal Hussey has more on him, including his “saggy pants” crusade.)
How Siplin, who is black, could vote for something that will directly, negatively impact African-American voters, who rely heavily on early voting, is beyond me. And how he continues to call himself a Democrat at this point is, too. The party should cease to help him ever get elected or re-elected to anything, ever, again. He’s an embarrassment.
Meanwhile, I certainly hope the League of Women Voters, the ACLU, and the Florida Democratic Party are prepared to file immediate lawsuits to stop this nonsense. Otherwise, Republicans’ next gambit might be to immediately disallow anyone from voting who does not produce a GOP loyalty oath at the voting booth.