One thing I think we can all agree on is that we can’t agree on anything. I mean, really, both Democrats and Republicans ought to be able to agree on the most basic principles of democracy, like, for example, the idea that as many people as possible should be able to vote in a representative democracy. True, our illustrious Founding Fathers didn’t quite see it that way, believing that only landowning males should have the vote, but they had their reasons for that, including bad ones (racism) and still more bad ones (sexism). But the main reason was, quite simply, that the Founding Fathers feared the mob. News at the time traveled at a glacial pace, and most people were, while not uneducated, totally ignorant of the people and issues involved in politics and policy. That reason, of course, holds no water these days, when anyone can turn on a TV or hop onto the Internet to get not only a candidate’s positions but also the opinions of a nigh-infinite list of pundits and prognosticators on those positions. If anything, today’s voter suffers from information overload, not ignorance.
So, getting as many people to the voting booth as possible should be an agreed-upon net-good. Everyone wins when more people participate in democracy, right?
After seeing the actions of Republicans in Florida over the last several election cycles, and especially recently leading up to the 2012 elections, I can only assume that Republicans agree, that, yes, more people getting to the voting booth is a good thing, provided that it’s a specific kind of person – their kind. In the name of quelling the almost nonexistent problem of voter fraud, the Republican government in Florida, both Gov. Rick Scott and the absurdities that now hold sway in both the state Legislature and Senate, have tried to deny the vote to minorities, college students, and women. Basically, if you’re an old, white man, they haven’t tried to suppress your vote. But for the rest of us, FOADIAF.
Early voting has been a great way to get more people involved in the process. It especially helps people who have difficulty getting off a specific day (read: voting day) but have an easier time getting a few hours on any one day over a couple weeks. In other words, it’s great for service-industry workers and other assorted 9-to-5ers – poorer people, minorities, women … the working class.
Well, screw them. This year, Florida has cut early voting from two weeks to eight days, despite the fact that more than half of the votes in 2008 were cast before election day. In what may have been the most painfully stupid, unbelievably dickheaded justifications for it, Rep. Allen West explained, “No, I think that when you look at our voting process here in the United States of America, it really comes down to you should be able to go out and vote on Election Day. If you cannot get out to vote on Election Day, you get an absentee ballot. I think that this early voting thing was something we provided and now some people see it as an entitlement, which is really not consistent with constitutional voting practices and procedures.”
And that’s it. Why is early voting being curtailed? Well, it’s just that we can curtail it, so we will. Don’t like it? Fuck off and get an absentee ballot, loser.
College students are similarly screwed by early voting losses, but also by the new date of primary voting, August 14, which perfectly falls as students are trying to get back to school for classes. Eliminating same-day voter registration was also a great way to deny freshmen in college their first chance to vote in an election.
You say you’re an 18-year-old anxious to finally participate in the democratic process? Ha ha! Go get hit by a fucking truck, you little pissant.
In perhaps its most naked attempt at voter suppression, Tallahassee passed a law that made requirements on voter-registration organizations such as Rock the Vote and the League of Women Voters so onerous that, rather than risk breaking the law, those organizations simply didn’t bother trying to register people to vote in Florida. So, congratulations, Rick Scott and your cronies in the state House. You folks got what you really wanted there – less people will vote in our state because you made damned sure they couldn’t.
Thankfully, last Thursday, a judge threw out requirements in the new Florida law that forced voter-registration organizations to report all registrations in person within 48 hours or suffer severe fines. The law was so nakedly, painfully antidemocratic that the judge practically laughed it out of court, remarking sarcastically about the 48-hours-notice part of the law, “If the goal is to discourage voter-registration drives and thus also to make it harder for new voters to register, this may work. Otherwise there is little reason for such a requirement.”
Disgustingly, in a move eerily similar to his gubernatorial forebear in 2000 and 2004 (read: the execrable Jeb Bush), Gov. Scott has begun purging voters from the voter rolls, either because they are felons or alien residents. And just as in those past election cycles, many of the purged are, in fact, legitimate voters. So much so that the Department of Justice is now looking into Scott’s ham-handed attempt to kick “felons” (read: black people) and “aliens” (read: Hispanics) off the voter rolls. As the New York Times noted, “More than 350 people in the Miami area alone came forward to dispute their presence on the list, forced to take steps to demonstrate their citizenship. One of them was Bill Internicola, who was born in Brooklyn in 1921 and earned the Bronze Star during the Battle of the Bulge. After talking to local elections officials, he was required to send a copy of his Army discharge papers.”
Late Friday, the time in politics and journalism that is known as the “Friday news dump” because it’s the time when unpalatable announcements are almost invariably made, in order to possibly fly under the media’s radar, a spokesman for Gov. Scott’s office reported that the voter purge would continue despite a warning from the Department of Justice. The voter purge has caused insurrection in the state, as Palm Beach County Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher told ThinkProgress that she would not send out letters demanding documentation to those on the To Be Purged list.
A debate among the body politic, between conservatism and liberalism, freedom and equality, greedy swine and communists – whatever you want to call the protagonists – is to be expected. But when one side is committed not just to the success of their ideas but to the disenfranchisement of entire groups of people who have not traditionally voted for them, this ceases to be a political discussion and becomes more of a coup d’etat.
Update: All 67 county Supervisors of Elections have said they will stop Gov. Scott’s voter purge, effectively putting an end to Tallahassee’s latest attempt at disenfranchisement. The governor has until Wednesday to officially respond to the Department of Justice’s letter, although as reported previously (both above and elsewhere), the governor’s spokesman has already said the voter purge would continue. However, the governor’s office recently sent emails to several media outlets, explaining that Friday’s notice that the purge would continue was not the “formal response” to the Department of Justice. The governor has until Wednesday to make that formal response, and now that he faces widespread insurrection among his county election supervisors, odds are he’ll use the DoJ warning as cover to back down and flee with his tail between his legs. Democracy: 1. Rick Scott: 0.