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Florida voter reg application

Last year, Floridans enacted a voter registration law severely limiting the ability of third parties, like the League of Women Voters, to do the essential function of helping people register to vote. You might remember the case of Jill Cicciarelli, a high school teacher who ran afoul of the law when she started a voter registration drive to pre-register her students who would be eligible to vote by the election.

The law that Cicciarelli came up against, and the fact that the state considered pursuing her for helping students register, has had a severe chilling effect on voter registration in the state. Which is precisely what the Republican-controlled government intended.

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.

Florida, which reminded the nation of the importance of every vote in the disputed presidential election in 2000 when it reported that George W. Bush had won by 537 votes, is now seeing a significant drop-off in new voter registrations. 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. [...]

[N]ew 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.

One county, Volusia, reported that registrations had dropped by a fifth, largely because the League of Women Voters had ceased registration drives, as had the five universities in the county. The law seems to be hitting precisely the population that Republicans want to keep out of the polls: new, young voters.

And, of course, minorities. This story relates the experience of Sabu L. Williams, the president of the Okaloosa County Branch of the N.A.A.C.P., who registered two voters and got a threatening letter from Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning for not getting his forms in within the prescribed 48 hours. The letter went on to say that "any future violation of the third-party voter registration law may result in my referral of the matter to the attorney general for an enforcement action." It's good to know Florida's coffers are so flush that Browning can take the time and resources to send intimidating letters over two errant registrations.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote, and the Florida Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, filed suit against the law in December, attempting to block it. But pending the outcome of that case, groups are ceasing their efforts.

For more of the week's news, make the jump below the fold.

In other news:

  • Think you have the right to vote? Not so much. A great infographic to print out and spread around.
  • Texas, which is suing the federal government because the Department of Justice has blocked it's voter ID laws, is going to have a hard time justifying it's claims by yelling fraud.
    Fewer than five “illegal voting” complaints involving voter impersonations were filed with the Texas Attorney General's Office from the 2008 and 2010 general elections in which more than 13 million voters participated.
  • At least, for now, we've still got the courts.
    An effort to make Missourians show photo identification at the voting booth suffered a setback this week after a Cole County judge tossed a constitutional amendment related to the issue.

    The amendment would have allowed lawmakers to craft a bill that would enact a voter identification law. On Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Pat Joyce ruled the ballot summary was “insufficient and unfair” and asked lawmakers to rewrite it.

    Which means that lawmakers can come back for another bite at the issue, but at least it's delayed for now. The challenge was brought by the Advancement Project, Fair Elections Legal Network, American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri on behalf of nine Missourians on the grounds that that the ballot language for the proposed amendment was misleading and invalidated the proposed amendment.
  • Filibusters have gotten a bad name, thanks to the explosion of them in the U.S. Senate since Democrats regained the majority. But they're not all bad.
    A bill that would have required Nebraska voters to show identification before voting is dead after supporters failed to end a filibuster against the measure on Wednesday.
    "It's dead. It's over," Speaker Mike Flood of Norfolk said minutes after a vote to end the filibuster against the measure (LB239) by Fremont Sen. Charlie Janssen failed.
    At least for this session of the unicam. Now they just have to do something about their problems in Omaha, where the Douglas County election commissioner David Phipps, a Republican, has shut down nearly half of the cities polling locations (mostly in low-income or minority communities) but also sent out polling location for the May 15 primary that he knew was erroneous. He's a lawsuit waiting to happen
  • In Colorado, Democrats are ratcheting up their fight with Republican Secretary of State Scott Gessler, who has been fighting the majority of county clerks in the state, and the legislature, over the sending of absentee ballots to voters who'd missed the previous election. Gessler had sued Denver and Pueblo counties last year over the issue, but was rejected. The clerks want to make voting as widely available as possible, and the legislature is considering legislation to allow them to do that. Gessler, and House Republicans, succeeded in getting the bill killed. Without the legislation, seniors, active duty military and others who rely on mail ballots will have a harder time voting in 2012.
  • Obama for America is engaging in Wisconsin, educating voters about the five major changes for voting in 2012. They are:
    1. You will need a photo ID to vote. [...]
    2. Residency requirements to vote in a particular ward have been lengthened from 10 days to 28 days.[...]
    3. If you register within 20 days of the election, you will need to provide documentary proof of residence. [...]
    4. Voter registration periods are limited around Election Day. [...]
    5. Opportunities to vote before Election Day have been limited. [...]
    Complete details, and how to comply with all the requirements, are listed at the OFA site.
  • And what's a war without a little Santorum?
    ThinkProgress spoke with the Republican presidential hopeful about voter ID laws — which require that citizens present a certain form of photo identification or they are barred from voting — during a campaign stop in Milwaukee last weekend. Santorum said that he supports such laws because, as he states it, “the only reason you don’t have a voter ID is you want to continue to perpetrate fraud.” He went on to dismiss the notion that anyone might not have access to a voter ID, saying that “it’s not a problem.”
    Got that? We all want to perpetuate the (non-existent) fraud. The world that man lives in is a strange and deeply disturbing one.
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