In the midst of nationwide efforts by Republicans to suppress voter turnout in 2012, came a ray of hopeful sunshine today, when a Federal Court, a panel of three judges, struck down Gov. Rick Scott’s attempt to cut early voting days from 12 to 8. The state is precluded under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act from enacting changes to its voting laws (along with several other states, mostly in the old Confederacy), due to a history of voter discrimination often referred to as Jim Crow laws (poll taxes, literacy tests, etc.), without prior approval either by the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court.
In this case, the Republican-controlled legislature tried to limit the number of early voting days (from 12 to 8). The Court held that in many counties “minorities will be disproportionately affected by the changes in early voting rules because they disproportionately use early in-person voting.”
Republican Governor Rick Scott, the most unpopular governor in the nation, according to many recent polls; along with the Republican legislature has been on a crusade to suppress voter turnout in Florida, a major swing state in 2012, where current polls in the presidential contest have President Obama and Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck. Last year, the legislature passed changes (HB 1355) to voter registration rules in the state, which imposed criminal penalties if voter registration forms were not turned in to election offices within 48-hours (including weekends). As a result new voter registration is way down in the state and even led one non-partisan group, The League of Women Voters to abandon voter registration drives, something it has done throughout the nation for decades. In May, a federal judge ruled that illegal, citing that it infringed upon free speech and voting rights.
More recently, Scott has made news by pursuing state purges of voter rolls that threatens to keep tens of thousands of eligible Florida voters from casting a ballot in 2012, a move heavily weighted against normally Democratic voters (minorities, elderly and students) in the state. The purge is based on a DMV database shown as highly inaccurate and out-of-date, as many eligible seniors, veterans and others have recently come forward to prove that they are American citizens, after receiving thirty-day notices from the state challenging their citizenship and right to vote in the upcoming election.
In fact, the effort is so disreputable in its legal basis and impact that Florida’s 67 county election officials (which includes 30 Republicans) have stated their refusal to comply, especially in light of a D.O.J. letter challenging the purges.
This is definitely good news as compared to a state court ruling this week in Pennsylvania, which has upheld a new state Photo I.D. requirement that may disenfranchise upwards of 750,000 Pennsylvania voters, mostly minorities, seniors and students…all groups in Pennsylvania that heavily vote for Democratic candidates. That decision is currently under appeal but it is uncertain that, if upheld, whether enough Pennsylvania voters will be physically able to obtain the required government (state or federal) photo identification they would need to exercise their Constitutional Right to vote.
All the more reason that activists must educate the public and urge all Americans to vote. You may get bored seeing this is my columns…but here it is again, a link to the most dangerous threat to our democracy…the 90 million voting age Americans who are expected to stay home playing video games or whatever instead of keeping the Republican party from stealing and buying the election for president…and the down-ticket elections as well!
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