On the heels of Florida's Republican Sec. of State Ken Detzner blocking the usage of the student union at the University of Florida in Gainesville as an early voting site for the upcoming March special election, local Republican election officials elsewhere in the state are also working to reduce access to the voting booth this year (for certain voters).
In the public comment section of the meeting, all ten speeches strongly opposed the move. Representatives of the local NAACP and Southern Christian Leadership Council warned that the cuts would decrease voter turnout because voters would have to travel further to a polling place, especially among the elderly and people without cars, and noted that the cuts disproportionately affected minority-heavy precincts.
Bennett assured the commission that if lines are longer in 2014 as a result of these changes, he would ask them to revisit the decision in 2015, before the 2016 elections.
Manatee's Supervisor of Elections Bennett, as Israel points out, is no stranger to voter suppression. In fact, he seems to rather love it. While serving as a State Senator in 2011, he endorsed a Republican bill to limit early voting during the 2012 Presidential election by explaining: "I wouldn't have any problem making it harder. I would want them to vote as badly as I want to vote. I want the people of the state of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who's willing to walk 200 miles...This should not be easy."
Hmmm..."That person in Africa". Just a common turn of phrase, apparently.
That 2011 bill was eventually passed, signed by Florida's Republican Gov. Rick Scott and successfully created hours-long lines for (certain) voters in the Sunshine State in 2012.
As we noted in our coverage last week of SoS Detzner's recent refusal to allow thousands of UF students to vote early at their own student union --- forcing the many car-less students to try and vote at a polling location five miles away instead --- both Scott and his hand-picked Sec. of State "had once pretended to be embarrassed about the long lines they caused (and refused to correct) at the polls during the 2012 election".
Those days of pretending to give a damn about voting rights must be over for some Florida Republicans, however, particularly with Scott up for re-election this year and his polling numbers looking fairly bleak against his likely challenger, former Republican Governor turned Democratic candidate Charlie Crist.