Florida Voter Registration Laws Stop The Democratic Process

In July of 2011, a voter-suppression law went up in Florida that was enacted by the state legislature and signed by Republican governor Rick Scott. The bill–HB 1355–severely limits voter registrations. As Think Progress reports, the main tenets of the bill are as follows:

– Forces Provisional Ballots: The bill eliminates a long-standing provision that allows people to change their address or name at the polls. For four decades, Florida allowed those with proper photo ID whose name or address had changed due to marriage, or divorce, or a move by a military family to update that information on Election Day. Under HB 1355, those changes would only be allowed for voters moving within the same county. Otherwise, a voter will not have to cast a provisional ballot and later provide identification to the supervisor of elections. As one Florida supervisor of elections told the Florida Independent, the provision is “disturbing” as provisional ballots are often reserved for close races and thus “go uncounted.”

– Cuts Early Voting: HB 1355 also cuts the time for early voting from 14 days to eight. The early voting reform was among former Gov. Charlie Crist’s (R-FL) election reforms to “prevent embarrassments like the 2000 election.” As the Miami Herald’s Joy-Ann Reid notes, “It was a hard-won victory for working people who sometimes can’t get to the polls if they work odd hours, or run out of time to resolve a problem at the polls.” According to Reid, in 2008, black churches and college students “took full advantage of the extra time” — two groups that overwhelmingly voted for President Obama.

– Invalidates Absentee Ballots: The bill severely undercuts the absentee ballot. Under this bill, absentee ballots are determined illegal if the voter’s signature on the certificate does not match the signature on record.” As the Herald-Tribune notes, this will affect “voters who suffer from arthritis, strokes and other ailments that affect their handwriting. Those who fail to update their signatures in time would be out of luck.” The bill states that, if elections results are contested, a court cannot “consider any evidence other than the signatures on the voter’s certificate and the signature of the elector in the registration records” in determining the ballots validity.

– Fines Third Party Voting Groups: Third-party voter registration groups, such as the non-partisan League of Women voters, the NAACP, and the Boy Scouts are also targeted by HB 1355 by requiring these groups to turn in registration cards within 48 hours of signature or face fines. Voter groups note that “the requirement would be difficult to meet if they are registering thousands of voters at a time.” Because of the “undue burden” this provision places on “thousands of volunteers,” the League of Women Voters — an organization with a “91-year history of registering and educating voters” — announced today that it will “cease [its] voter registration efforts in this state” should HB 1355 become law.

It should be noted that the state legislature was primarily Republican. With that in mind, The Florida Times-Union reports that generally, in the thirteen months before a presidential election, Florida has “registered Democrats increase by an average of 209,425 voters.” This year, however, “from 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.”

That statistic is simply astounding, showing a clearly partisan skewing that slows down the true democratic process and damages the idea of a “fair” voting process. The law was put on hold in late May by a judge, but the damage has already been done.

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