I’ve written a considerable amount about the negative impact HB1355 likely will have on early voting in Florida. But the regressive law also affects the ability of Florida citizens to register to vote.
The Republican-controlled legislature’s rationale for the law–steeped in the anti-democratic rhetoric of making voting a privilege, not a right–continues to conjur up vestiges of Jim Crowism. “We’re going to have a very tight election here next year, and we need to protect the integrity of the election,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Ocala. “When we looked around, we saw a need for some tightening.”
With respect to the severe restrictions placed on “third parties” (including individual citizens) interested in helping fellow citizens to register to vote, Republican lawmakers are surely cognizant of the surge of African Americans who registered to vote in Florida prior to the 2008 general election.
As I write with my co-author, Stephanie Slade (who works for The Winston Group, a Republican pollster based in DC) in a recent article on the 2008 election in Florida, “Obama to Blame? African American Surge Voters and the Ban on Same-Sex Marriage in Florida,”
Between December of 2007 and October of 2008, an additional 233,130 black Floridians registered to vote, a group of citizens we have referred to as the Obama-inspired African American surge. If these voters turned out at the same rate as the Florida electorate as a whole in the 2008 presidential election (74.6 percent), black surge voters would have constituted 173,915 of 8.39 million total votes cast for all the presidential candidates.
The numbers speak for themselves.
This spring, Republican lawmakers changed the rules to try to ensure that there will be no African American “surge voters” in 2012.
It will be up to the US Justice Department, as well as several interveners (including the ACLU, NAACP, and the League of Women Voters)–but ultimately the federal courts–to determine whether they ultimately succeed in their effort to suppress the vote in Florida.