By now, more than 2 million people have already voted in Florida, accounting for nearly one-fifth of the state's voters and trouncing early concerns that voter-suppression measures would stymie turnout.
We already knew how bogus concerns over voter fraud were, but does the same go for our trepidation regarding voter suppression? Did everyone lose his mind over what was ultimately just a bunch of nonsense?
Indeed, there have been many bloviations and harrumphs over state GOP's plan to restrict the number of people who can vote -- some of which were thankfully tossed out in federal court -- but as of now, it's looking like those worries weren't totally warranted. Everyone and his mama seems to be getting to the polls.
At least, that is, in Broward and Palm Beach counties. Lines snake out from voting stations, and 80,000 people unleashed some suffrage last weekend: 55,000 in Broward, and 25,000 in Palm Beach. That's double the number of people who had voted by this point in 2008.
But are these numbers misleading? Possibly, cautioned Anita Pritchard, a political scientist at Florida Atlantic University. Let's unpack what we're really seeing.
In a sense, it's not surprising that the numbers are about where they are right now. The real effects of voter suppression may not happen until later. The most enthusiastic voters -- the ones who would get to the polls no matter what -- they're the ones we see voting right now.
But the apathetic ones? They may not even be concerned with voting yet -- haven't even thought of it -- and will vote only at the last minute, if they do at all. That means we won't know for days whether voter suppression has had any actual effect.
In fact, we may never know.
Here's why: Proving the efficacy of voter suppression sinks you into a bog of counter-factuals and what-ifs. "It might be very hard to know," Pritchard said. "The thing about voter suppression is that you don't know how many people just didn't vote, and how many people were discouraged."
In a presidential race this close, every vote will ultimately play great significance. Across the state, the vote has, as of now, split evenly between the parties, with around 800,000 Republicans and Democrats having already voted, according to the Department of State. Independents have cast around 315,000 ballots.
That means even if just 5,000 voters are somehow dissuaded from voting later in the process -- even though GOP initiatives may have had little effect on almost everyone else -- the ultimate impact will be massive.
And we'll never be able to prove it. Surely, Democrats will blame any narrow loss on voter suppression; it will be far easier than blaming themselves or unpopular positions. But establishing any causal relationship between what the Republicans in Florida have done and their actual effect on the election's outcome won't be possible.
And Republicans would have committed the perfect crime.
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