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Why the GOP should not have pushed the controversial elections bill

By on May 19, 2011

Despite a historic victory in the Jacksonville Mayor’s race and an expected win in Tampa’s municipal elections, Democrats in Florida are not exactly on a winning streak. Despite winning the state for President Obama in 2008 and the occasional statewide win, Democrats have been whupped up on by the GOP for going on two decades.

So why is the GOP trying to change the rules which have given them de facto control of what should be a purple state?

The truth is Democrats are historically more concerned with registering people to vote than Republicans. It’s not that Republicans are opposed to registering more people to vote, it’s just that the Democrats and their progressive allies are genuinely interested in registering voters. Democrats devote their time, energy, money and resources to registering voters. Relatively, Republicans really don’t. Republicans worry about getting out their voters. That’s part of the reason why Republicans win elections despite suffering from a registration gap.

But now, with the Florida GOP disincentivizing organizations from registering voters, Republicans better hope Democrats don’t find something better to do with their free time, like getting out their voters.

By the way, by my math, with the change of the date of the 2012 primary to August 14, ballots to permanent absentee, military and overseas voters must go out no later than June 30.

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Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith released the following statement blasting Governor Rick Scott for signing HB1355, legislation which has come to be known as the ?oter Suppression?bill.

?oday is a tragic day for the Sunshine State, with Governor Rick Scott signing into law a bill that disenfranchises voters, makes it harder for Floridians to vote and limits access to the polls.

?ince Rick Scott? own Republican Secretary of State, Kurt Browning, has repeatedly debunked the claims made by Republicans regarding any issues with Florida? current elections law, Floridians should see that this bill is simply an attack on the voting rights of all Floridians.

?e are confident that this bill, which is nothing more than a power-grab by Republicans, will be overturned by the courts and rejected by the U.S. Justice Department.?/blockquote>
Representative Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) released the following statement today to express his disappointment with Governor Rick Scott? signing of the Election Bill (HB 1355) into law:

?s elected officials, we should not be implementing policies that stimulate voter suppression. There are many people who have protested, marched and died to create an environment that encourages and guarantees the right to vote for all citizens. This bill eliminates several strides that have been made by those who have fought to ensure equal voting rights.

?his bill also disproportionately impacts specific voting groups. Critics have long said that this legislation makes it harder for college students and minorities to participate in the electoral process due to restrictions on polling locations as well as well as the shortening of the early vote period. Any piece of legislation that adversely impacts a targeted group of voters should not be sustained.

?e had an opportunity to pass a bill that encouraged voter participation and that restored public faith in democracy and in the electoral process. But instead, we signed into law a bill that created a voting injustice. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that `An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.?This law threatens our democracy. The fight to restore a more inclusive voting process is long from over.?/blockquote>
Statement from the League of Women Voters:

The League of Women Voters of Florida is gravely disappointed by Governor Rick Scott’s decision to approve HB 1355, a controversial elections bill that the League considers an assault on voters. By signing HB 1355, the Governor indicated his support for burdensome and unnecessary regulations that will make it more difficult for eligible voters to get registered and cast a ballot in the state of Florida.

League president Deirdre Macnab said, “Governor Scott takes Florida back in time today, with his approval of cumbersome regulations that will make it harder for eligible Floridians to be engaged and active in their government.” She added, “This is extremely disappointing in a state like Florida, which had made many improvements to its electoral system in recent years.”

Now that the bill has been approved by the Governor, HB 1355 will move to the U.S. Department of Justice for review. The federal Voting Rights Act requires Florida to submit all laws that affect voting rights to the Department of Justice before they can be enforced statewide. The League believes that HB 1355 contains many provisions that will suppress the registration of eligible voters, and will have a disproportionate impact on African-American and Hispanic voters who, studies show, are twice as likely to register to vote via third party voter registration groups than non-minority voters .

The League is very concerned that parts of this law are being implemented as soon as this week. We disagree with the state’s decision to rush to enforce this complex law before the Department of Justice reviews it and before any rule-making has begun.

The following is a statement from Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, regarding Governor Scott signing HB 1355:

If it weren? so grotesquely un-American, you? almost want to congratulate them for the audacity and efficiency of the attack. Governor Scott and the anti-civil liberties State Legislature have achieved an astonishing voter suppression trifecta. With just one bill, they made it harder to register to vote, harder to cast your vote, and harder to have your vote counted.

The right to participate in a fair election is the backbone of our democracy, and election laws are supposed to protect that right by making our elections fair and transparent. The current regime in Tallahassee wrongly sees voting as a privilege rather than the fundamental right that it is. They feel free to manipulate the voting process and use election laws as a weapon to against Floridians whose rights are inconvenient to their power.

From the very beginning, some leaders in Tallahassee made it a top priority to undo decades of work that made our democracy the envy of the world. This was made clear when, in one of their first official acts after being sworn in, Governor Scott and his cabinet repealed changes to Jim Crow civil and voting rights restoration restrictions that were enacted by the Crist Administration.

Today, with a stroke of his pen, Governor Scott has made the ?inority, Youth and Woman Voter Suppression Act of 2011,?the crown-jewel of voter suppression legislation, into law.

Florida law now forces more Floridians to cast provisional ballots which are not likely to be counted, limits the number of days Floridians have access to the polls, and has effectively shut down the volunteer voting registration work of organizations like the League of Women Voters and the Boy Scouts.

Governor Scott says he signed, to prevent fraud, which has been proven to be fictional. The Governor also claimed that he wants to make sure people have the opportunity to vote, which of course is not what this bill does. If you?e looking for fraud, look no further than the big lie on which this bill is based.

Tallahassee City Commissioner Andrew Gillum today blasted Governor Rick Scott for suppressing voters by signing HB 1355.

“Not only did Governor Rick Scott just make it harder for Floridians to vote, he did so like a coward, without explanation and in private,” said Gillum. “This is an insult to the very foundation of our democracy and all of the hard working Floridians whomake their voice heard through early voting and provisional ballots. Rick Scott just proved himself to be an enemy of open, transparent democracy.”

State Representative Mia L. Jones (D-Jacksonville) issued the following statement regarding Governor Rick Scott? signing of House Bill 1355:

? am very disappointed that Governor Scott signed House Bill 1355, a controversial elections bill that will have a negative impact on all Floridians, including those who are currently participating in early voting in Miami-Dade County. This new law will undo much progress our state has made over the past 35 years toward encouraging full voter participation in elections. Ever since the 2000 presidential election, our state has strived to be a national model for other states to follow in ensuring that elections are handled fairly, that they are orderly, and that every vote is counted.

? strongly reject the claims by supporters of this new law who suggest that this will reduce election fraud. Instead, I believe this new law will discourage and disenfranchise tens of thousands of Floridians from participating in the next election. This law forces college students and others who change their address when they vote to use a provisional ballot, which is simply unacceptable and will result in increased costs for our elections supervisors!

? voted against this bill because it places too many roadblocks on those who cast ballots and how their votes are to be counted. It is unfortunate that the governor did not feel the same way and signed a law that will suppress voter participation.?/blockquote>

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