Newspaper editorials describe effort as 'disgraceful,' 'naked grab for power' by GOP
Local Election Integrity advocates request national action...
By Brad Friedman on 4/20/2009, 12:24pm PT  

[Updated several times at bottom of article, including encouraging comment on this offensive bill, by FL Gov. Charlie Crist.]

John Gideon covered the latest outrageous election-gaming attempt by Florida Republicans over the weekend in "Daily Voting News," but this one clearly needs a few more eyeballs.

Kindra Muntz, president of Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) emailed over the weekend to request "nationwide pressure" be placed on legislators in Tallahassee and, given the ugliness of this particular effort, we'd agree. See the bottom of this article for some action links which Muntz suggests taking to counter what she describes as a "dangerous" and "devastating" bill being quietly fast-tracked through the FL legislature by the GOP down there this week.

Here's a couple of passages from two no-holds-barred editorials from over the weekend, excoriating this latest, blatant attempt at voter suppression by the Sunshine State Republicans who, this time, have got elderly voters (and much more) in their cross-hairs. Among a few pretty horrible things this bill does (see below for much more), it would end the use of "Retirement center identification" and "Neighborhood association identification" for the elderly when voting at the polling place.

The first editorial below comes from the St. Petersburg Times which calls the effort "disgraceful," a "naked grab for power," and charges, "Republican legislative leaders have lost all sense of shame with their 11th-hour bill to roll back voting rights in Florida."...

Republican legislative leaders have lost all sense of shame with their 11th-hour bill to roll back voting rights in Florida. The legislation is so disgraceful it is no wonder a Republican-led House committee debated the bill for all of 6 minutes Friday before silencing public comment and approving the bill along party lines. This fast-moving train needs to be stopped cold.

The legislation moving through the Senate and House is breathtaking for its naked grab for power. The Senate bill, SB 956, and its companion legislation moving through the House would make it harder for voters to have their voices heard and easier for the major political parties to manipulate the outcome of the electoral process. It would ban retirement center and neighborhood association cards from the forms of identification now acceptable to vote. So much for seniors who do not drive and whose military days are far behind them.
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The bill would make it easier for the state to declare a winner in an election where the votes were not fully counted. And the authority to recount any federal, state or multicounty election — which rests now with the governor and two members of the Cabinet, all of whom are elected statewide — would fall to the secretary of state, who is appointed by the governor.

No wonder Republican leaders quietly waited until week seven of the nine-week session to spring this stew of every bad election idea they could imagine.

The New York Times noticed the scam over the weekend as well, adding this to the St. Pete's Times description:

Since 2000, Florida has been synonymous with badly run and undemocratic elections. This distinction has not come to it by chance. Many of the state’s election officials and legislators work hard to keep eligible voters from casting ballots. The Florida Legislature is at it again, threatening to pass new rules that would make it harder for eligible voters, especially those from minorities and those who are poor, to register and vote.

Republican state legislators, who are behind the latest bills, want to make it illegal for anyone to get within 100 feet of a line of voters. That provision would criminalize election protection programs, in which nonpartisan volunteers make themselves available outside of polling places on Election Day to ensure that eligible voters know their legal rights and are able to cast ballots.
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Republican leaders seem to be trying to push the legislation through quickly, with a minimum of public attention or comment.
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It is doubtful that significant parts of it, like the prohibition on giving legal advice to voters in line, could survive a constitutional challenge.

Florida legislators should not need a court to tell them not to interfere with the right to vote.

As you know, as Florida goes, so generally goes the nation. So please take some action. SAFE's Muntz recommends these:

FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE AND SENATOR HERE:

Also call and email the Senate President, House Speaker, and Governor Crist (Phone calls are better than email):

  1. Senate President Jeff Atwater, (email, phone: 850-487-5100) VOTE NO on ELECTION BILL SB956
  2. House Speaker Larry Cretul 850-488-1450 VOTE NO on ELECTION BILL PCB-EDCA 09-08
  3. Governor Crist (email, phone: 850-488-4441) VETO the consolidated ELECTION BILL if it gets to your desk

UPDATE: Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio writes a short letter to Gov. Crist [PDF] urging him to "veto the bill immediately," should it make it to his desk. She notes her own experience as a ten-year Supervisor of Elections and excoriates the way in which the bill was "conceived in secrecy with an aim to further restrict people from being a part of the election process." She notes that "This current legislative action reflects an arrogance that is offensive to all who care about good government."

LATER UPDATE: Miami Herald blogs that Republican Gov. Crist says he doesn't like the bill, even if he won't use "the V word" for the moment...

"What is it we’re trying to cure?" Crist asked in an interview with the Times/Herald. "The more opportunity you give people to vote, the better it is for democracy. So that aspect of it concerns me."

"It always seems to me that when there may be legislation that attempts to sort of make it harder for people to do something – the people that we work for – generally that’s not good. I don’t look on that in a favorable light and that is true of this particularly particular [sic?] part of this legislation."

Would you veto the bill if it hits your desk? "Let’s see if it does first. I don’t like to use the V word … but I’m not fond of that provision. It concerns me."

That, hopefully, is good news. Crist has proven, in truth, to be pretty good with issues of voting rights in FL, beginning with his call to move to paper ballots across the state after he came into office (the state did so, even with a few poison pills by GOP legislators allowed to remain in the bill), and the re-enfranchisement of former felons, a particularly progressive move, especially for a Republican. We'll hope he holds this line on this appalling and blatant attempt by the House/Senate Republicans towards out-and-out voter suppression.

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