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Please begin with an informative title:

This editorial from former Florida Secretary of State Bruce Smathers appeared Sunday in the Florida Times Union


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

New voting restrictions recall days of Jim Crow

Posted: December 11, 2011 - 12:04am  |  Updated: December 11, 2011 - 3:12am

Bruce A, Smathers was a member of the Florida state Senate before his election as secretary of state of Florida, during which service he reformed state election law. He may be contacted at sec.state78@gmail.com

A critical tenet of our American democracy is every citizen’s right to vote. It’s a right in which we take great pride, though it took more than a century of struggles before all citizens could cast a ballot.

Today, the progress from this struggle is being blatantly eroded in Florida and other states.

This Jim Crow suppression of voter registration and minority voting comes in the form of legislation passed earlier this year by our state lawmakers and signed into the books by Gov. Rick Scott.

The justifications for reducing early voting days and subjecting volunteer voter registration drives to harsh penalties are reminiscent of the arguments for the Jim Crow-like laws of long ago: “Protect the integrity of the ballot” … “fight fraud” …“make the vote meaningful” … “save money.”

The tools of yore — poll taxes, literacy tests, white (only) primaries — yielded the same results that this new legislation will: suppression of disadvantaged and minority citizens’ opportunity, ability and right to vote in Florida. How?

First, the law reduces the “early voting” period from 14 days to eight, adversely affecting citizens who need more time and assistance to get to the polls or vote.

These include our handicapped, our wounded veterans, our elderly and many African-American and Hispanic citizens.

Second, it cancels early voting on the Sunday before Tuesday’s election. That terminates “Souls to the Polls” transporting voters in primarily black communities to polls that Sunday.

In Florida’s 2008 election, approximately 33.2 percent of voters that Sunday were African-American — double the percent of African-Americans voting early that year. The statistics on Hispanic voters that Sunday are comparable.

Third, the Florida Legislature with this new law complicated registration procedures, increased labor and expense for Supervisors of Election, and made minor technical violations subject to large fines.

The law compresses the time for a volunteer to turn in new voter applications from 10 days to just 48 hours — or, the volunteer suffers punitive civil fines and penalties up to $1000!

Recently two Florida teachers, attempting to engage their high school students in civic matters, including pre-registering them to vote, ran afoul of this provision.

Census figures reveal that Hispanic and African-American voters are twice as likely as white voters to register through volunteer organizations.

The Legislature is aware of this disparity, thus deliberately intended to suppress volunteer voter registration. They used this a century ago, and it worked, so they’re returning to such Jim Crow tactics. They have throttled voter registration efforts of Florida’s League of Women Voters, teachers, students and others.

The 2008 and 2010 elections in Florida produced no false voter registration or evidence of fraud to justify such changes. The Association of Supervisors of Elections, all locally elected county officials responsible for voter registration did not request this new law. They did not support these provisions.

Many of my Republican friends were shocked at the passage of this law. They can’t comprehend why the Legislature enacted a law that will suppress the ability of churches, volunteer and charitable groups to help disadvantaged minority and aged citizens exercise their Constitutional right to register and vote.

The League of Women Voters, which has conducted bipartisan voter registration drives for 72 years, has terminated its voter registration efforts in Florida because of this law.
The president of the League characterized the proposed law last spring as “a return to Jim Crow-style tactics to suppress voter registration and participation.”

As former secretary of state and chief elections officer of Florida, I agree.
These Jim Crow tactics speak for themselves.

Bruce A, Smathers was a member of the Florida state Senate before his election as secretary of state of Florida, during which service he reformed state election law. He may be contacted at sec.state78@gmail.com

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/...

Extended (Optional)

Originally posted to ben4prez on Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 09:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Kos Georgia.


Is the use of the term "Jim Crow tactics" too incindeary?

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