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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Florida Voter Suppression Taking Increasing Toll

It appears that Florida Republicans are still getting away with voter suppression activities, as Michael Cooper and Jo Craven McGinty report at the New York Times.

…Prominent civic organizations have suspended registration drives because of what they describe as onerous restrictions imposed last year by Republican state officials.
The state’s new elections law — which requires groups that register voters to turn in completed forms within 48 hours or risk fines, among other things — has led the state’s League of Women Voters to halt its efforts this year. Rock the Vote, a national organization that encourages young people to vote, began an effort last week to register high school students around the nation — but not in Florida, over fears that teachers could face fines. And on college campuses, the once-ubiquitous folding tables piled high with voter registration forms are now a rarer sight.
…In the months since its new law took effect in July, 81,471 fewer Floridians have registered to vote than during the same period before the 2008 presidential election, according to an analysis of registration data by The New York Times. All told, there are 11.3 million voters registered in the state.
…new registrations dropped sharply in some areas where the voting-age population has been growing, the analysis found, including Miami-Dade County, where they fell by 39 percent, and Orange County, where they fell by a little more than a fifth. Some local elections officials said that the lack of registration drives by outside groups has been a factor in the decline.

More than a dozen states have passed laws making it harder to vote in recent years. Many of the laws require photo identification, restrict groups that register voters and cut back on early voting. In Florida, civic groups in counties covered by the Voting Rights Act are filing court challenges.
The authors describe the Florida law as “among the strictest in the nation and “similar to one New Mexico passed in 2005, which also imposes penalties for failing to meet a 48-hour deadline for handing in forms.” Unfortunately civic group court challenges failed in New Mexico and voter registration rolls have been shortened. In Florida, however, the Brennan Center for Justice is “challenging the Florida law on First Amendment grounds, arguing that speaking to voters and registering them is protected speech.”
If Super-PACs are protected by the First Amendment and citizens who register voters are not, then America is in trouble, and voters should hold the GOP accountable in November.

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