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Voter Suppression Back in Style; Let's Party Like It's 1869

Florida's legislative attack on voter rights easily passed the House last week and looks like it will surely sail through the Senate to become law. We're not alone, though. Our state's attempt to disenfranchise a massive amount of its citizens is actually part of a national trend.

On Wednesday, the New York Times mentioned Florida's bill in an editorial about Republican-led voter suppression sweeping through at least 30 states. Legislative efforts threaten to scale back voter rights like almost never before in places like Kansas, Texas, and Wisconsin. But there's nothing like Sunshine State suppression, and all of it just wasn't "fit to print" in the Times.

For all their talk about our flawless U.S. Constitution when rejecting health care reform, Florida Republicans hate, hate, hate those two darned amendments that gave voting rights to black men and, later, women. Earlier this year, Gov. Rick Scott brought back the Jim Crow-style voting laws, which were originally meant to nullify the 15th Amendment. And now, women voters are one of the groups particularly threatened by lawmakers. But the proposed law targets a few voter blocs.

While the Times' headline read "The Republican Threat to Voting," here in Florida, it's more like a direct assault on voters who might pose a threat to Republicans.

The editorial mentioned only one element of Florida's wide-ranging voter crackdown. In a short paragraph at the bottom, it noted that the bill would "curtail early voting periods," which benefited President Obama and Democrats in the 2008 election. On Tuesday, the bill passed through its first Senate committee, which approved cutting the early voting period from 15 days to seven days.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, however, gave his word that he would seek to restore at least two days to the provision as the bill moves forward. He's not worried about voters because he's pushing his own plutocratic proposal through the Legislature that essentially makes whores out of lawmakers by allowing them to sell their power to the highest-bidding special interests.

Republicans claim that the bill is meant to combat Florida's voter fraud problem, which they seem to have completely imagined. So while they tackle nonexistent voter fraud, Florida continues to lead the nation in prisoners who commit tax fraud. And keep in mind that our Republican Senate president, Mike Haridopolos, who leads the fight against illusory fraud, plans to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bill Nelson, a Democrat leading the fight against Florida's prisoner tax fraud problem.

And the topic of fraud always reminds me of Gov. Scott. Earlier this week, the ACLU sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, similar to a letter sent by the NAACP in March, urging a federal investigation into Scott's possible violation of the Voting Rights Act with his reimplementation of felon disenfranchisement.       

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Michael Cohen

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