GOP Plans to Restrict Black, Latino Vote, Move Forward
The Florida Republican-controlled Legislature is ramming through a pair of bills that would usurp the rights of voters and suppress voter participation, the likes of which have never been seen in the state.
A controversial elections measure, SB 2086 and its House companion, HB 1355, which has already passed the full House, denies existing voters who have moved or changed their name, the ability to cast a regular ballot; reduces the time for early voting from 15 days to 7 days; and makes it particularly burdensome for third-party voter groups to assist voters in registering to vote.
According to Adam Skaggs, a senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, a non-partisan public policy and law institute, a number of the bill’s provisions would negatively impact a wide range of voters.
“The combination of all of the provisions in the bill are going to suppress voting, and the burdens they impose will fall hardest on the state’s vulnerable voters–African Americans, Latinos, students, members of the military and less affluent voters who rent rather than own their homes,” said Skaggs.
Skaggs added that, it’s the vulnerable voters too, that are twice as likely to register during voter registration drives.
In addition to disenfranchising Florida voters, the process by which the measures have been rammed through the Florida Legislature, must also be called into questioned. The public had virtually no opportunity to meaningfully input on the elections bills.
On Tuesday earlier this week, although 39 members of the public requested to speak on SB 2086, Senate Budget Committee Chairman, J.D. Alexander limited public testimony to three minutes in total.
Of the speakers’ denied an opportunity to publicly comment on the bill, 37 people intended to speak against the measure, one wanted to provide information, and one planned to speak in favor of the bill, the League of Women Voters of Florida said.
“Democracy is getting squeezed like a Florida orange,” said Danielle Prendergast, Director of Public Policy for the ACLU of Florida in a statement. “Voting, free speech and civic action should be encouraged and protected, yet this proposal treats voter participation like some contagious disease that should be feared, contained and eradicated.”
Added Brad Ashwell, Democracy Advocate for Florida PIRG, “Voting is one of the most fundamental rights in a democracy. We should be talking about ideas that will make voting easier like making election day a holiday, allowing early voting on college campuses and modernizing voter registration processes. But instead we’re here defending the right of the public to have their vote counted at all.”
At a press conference on Thursday, the League, ACLU, Florida PIRG and other organizations opposing the measure, called on Senate President Mike Haridopolos to stop the legislature’s attack on voters’ rights.