The U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of a key part of the Voter Rights Act opened new opportunities for states to limit voting and Republican governors and legislatures have decided to implement new voter restrictions aimed at minorities, independents and Democrats.
In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott is planning a new effort to fix the state’s voter rolls, even though they don’t appear to be broken.
I was taught that in a democracy voting is a right and the government’s goal is to allow the largest number of citizens an opportunity to vote. But, in 2012, Republicans developed a strategy to limit voting by stopping minorities with new laws and purging voter rolls. They were unsuccessful because the Department of Justice under U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and voter protection groups filed lawsuits claiming many of these new laws violate federal law.
The Department of Justice was very successful in the lawsuits and many states were forced to rescind the laws. However, even though Scott lost his bid to purge voter rolls in 2012, he recently informed county election supervisors that he plans to continue his efforts this year to remove non-citizens from Florida’s voter rolls.
In the 2012 elections, the voting process was very embarrassing. It took some voters six hours of waiting in line to vote. It was a national disgrace and it took three days to count the votes. The entire country was laughing at Florida. It appeared the state was not competent. A shortened early voting period was one of the reasons for long lines and the delay in the final vote tally after President Barack Obama had been declared the winner.
Instead of Scott developing a plan to make sure the election ran smoothly, he was busy conducting a voter purge. The state initially targeted 180,000 voters believed to be non-citizens, before the election supervisors identified mistakes. The list was reduced to 2,600 and then to about 260.
“It was sloppy. It was slapdash and it was inaccurate. They were sending us names of people to remove because they were born in Puerto Rico. It was disgusting,” said Polk County Supervisor of Elections Lori Edwards.
Just when it looked like Scott had learned his lesson and signed a bill in May to reform the election process by reinstating early voting days and expanding polling places, he is instead planning to waste our money with more voter purges. Instead of working to improve the voter system, he will spend time intimidating minority voters.
Scott, a Republican, will use integrity as the reason for the voter purges but everyone knows his goal is to disenfranchise Hispanics and African Americans. A Miami Herald analysis found the effort disproportionately affects these two groups and also independent voters.
The only solution to Scott’s voter mess is to make sure he is a governor for one term. Starting this month, Democrats must register 150,000 new voters with a goal to defeat him in 2014.
*Roger Caldwell, a community activist, author, journalist, radio host and CEO of On Point Media Group a media company, lives in Orlando. His book, The Inspiring Journey of a Stroke Survivor, details his story of his recovery from a massive stroke. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org