Voter suppression then, voter suppression now; will we ever learn?
In a recent Around the Block, I suggested that every once in a while I’d take a look back at archived columns that might still have some relevance today. As I said, “I’ve been writing Around the Block on and off since 2012. A lot has happened, good and bad, in those 10 years. That good and bad has meant writing this blog has been kind of like riding a roller coaster; lots of ups and downs.”
With that in mind, and with the 2022 mid-term elections right around the corner, I thought I’d share the following story with you, one I wrote in July 2012*. That’s right, exactly 10 years ago.
(*By the way, now a Florida resident, in 2012 I lived in California.)
“Florida’s recent voter registration law. (No, not the Florida voter purge law, that’s another, related issue).”
What I learned today, courtesy of The Nation Magazine is really how heinous this law is.
First, the genesis. According to the Florida state senator who sponsored the bill, the intent is to make voting more difficult. “This [voting] should not be easy.”
So how have they made it not easy? Basically, by imposing draconian rules and stiff fines for third-party registrars to assist potential voters in the registration process. So draconian that third-party registration agents like the League of Women Voters have said they will suspend their voter registration efforts in the state because the risks are too great.
What are the rules? The details are in the article but suffice it to say if any of the rules are broken the agent can face stiff fines and/or felony fraud charges and potential jail time. Fines range from $50/application if they are submitted late (that is, beyond the 48-hour limit) up to $250 or more if the lateness is considered “willful”. Other violations can move the fines up to $1,000. Registrars were also required to fill out monthly and quarterly reports on their registration numbers, which if late, also are subject to fines.
Why did this happen? According to the sponsors and the governor*: to fight “voter fraud”. But isn’t that what they always say.
(*Note: In 2012 Rick Scott, shown in the headline picture, not Ron DeSantis, was Florida’s governor. Scott is currently still wreaking havoc as Florida’s junior senator.)
How bad is voter fraud in Florida? The Nation article states that according to the ACLU there have been only 49 investigations of voter fraud since 2008. And further, according to the Orlando Sentinel, since 2000 there were 178 alleged voter fraud cases referred to the state’s law enforcement agency with just eleven arrests and seven convictions. Florida has approximately 12 million registered voters. Unlike girls in Florida, voter fraud is apparently not running wild.
In addition to the registration issues, the law also apparently significantly limits early voting in Florida, a traditional method for black voters in the state to cast their ballots.
The net effect of all this is that the law makes registration more difficult and, once registered, traditional voting methods more restrictive.
So why did this happen? We all know why. To keep Democratic-leaning voters from voting. And, in various forms, it’s happening across the country in Republican governed states. As Pennsylvania’s House Majority Leader said the other day commenting on that state’s new voter ID/”suppression” law: “it’s ‘gonna’ (sic) allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania”. Well you ‘gotta’ commend him for his candor!
And, what’s the good news? Well in Florida a federal judge has blocked the law suit temporarily pending a trial (and the Feds have filed suit against the purge law as well).
But that’s not good enough. If these laws are blocked, they’ll just write new ones. They’re relentless.
Which leads me to what I haven’t learned today: How can we stop this assault on the democratic (small “d”) process?
Ten years on, voter suppression, aided and abetted by the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act, is worse than ever.
I guess we’ll never learn.