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Like several other states, Florida has been busy passing laws that critics claim are meant to actually suppress voting in the state.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a controversial overhaul of elections law in the state. House Bill 1355 placed onerous restrictions on third party voter registration, created a shortened “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, placed new restrictions on voters changing their registered addresses on election day, and reduced the number of early voting days.
Of course, the justification for the Florida law......the same justification offered by other states also criticized for new voting laws.....is....wait for it.....voter fraud. Didn't see that one coming. What these laws are actually intended to do.....is suppress Democratic votes.
Florida's HB 1355 is said by critics to suppress voting in three specific ways....
1) Reducing the number of days for early voting from 14 days to eight days, and altogether eliminating early voting on the Sunday before the Tuesday election.
2) Requiring third-party voter registration organizations to submit voter registration applications within 48 hours of receipt instead of ten days as provided by existing law, and imposing a fine of $50 for each failure to comply with the deadline, and imposing fines up to $1,000 for failing to comply with other provisions.
3) Disallowing voters who move from one Florida county to another to make an address change at the polls on the day of an election and vote a regular ballot, except for active military voters and their family members.
These new rules applied in Florida's recent GOP primary election.....in all but five Florida counties...
....five of Florida’s counties are covered by Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the state has yet to receive US Justice Department preclearance to enforce the law in Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, and Monroe counties.
Florida primary results demonstrated that....
Nearly one in three votes cast in the GOP primary election in the five Section 5 counties were ballots cast early in-person by voters, compared to less than 22 percent of all ballots cast in the other 62 counties.
The former early voting law in Florida....the one followed in only 5 Florida counties in the recent January GOP primary.....accounted for 33% of all votes cast in those 5 counties, compared to only 22% of all votes cast in the 62 Florida counties which followed the new Florida voting law's shortened early voting period.
In Florida, Democrats are more likely to vote early than Republicans, which means that in the general election this fall, fewer independent and Democratic voters will vote early.
Daniel Smith, an elections expert and professor at the University of Florida,...."In Florida,” he writes, “Republicans are considerably less likely to cast votes early in-person than Democrats or those registered as No Party Affiliate or with a 3rd Party....”
To me, that is the entire point of the new GOP-passed voting law in Florida. Shortening the early voting period....eliminating Sunday voting just before election Tuesday....is meant to trim independent and Democratic voting...even if ever so slightly. No one can forget how close the 2000 Florida presidential election turned out. Every vote counts, and in a swing state like Florida, Republican efforts to shorten early voting just might swing a close general election in the GOP direction, because Democrats and independents disproportionately vote early as compared to Republicans.
All that said....here's the, I think, irrefutable evidence that Florida's GOP leaders are entirely insincere in their claims that these new voting restrictions are meant to curb (non-existent) early voting fraud.....
Florida's HB 1355.....
....has actually made it easier for citizens to cast an absentee ballot, and actually, increases the likelihood of voter fraud.
HB1355 eliminates the provision that existed in 2010 ..... making future absentee ballot fraud more difficult to prosecute. Prior to the election code being changed by the Republican legislature in 2011, Supervisors of Elections were required to send absentee ballot to a voter’s registered address, unless the voter was absent from the county, hospitalized, or temporarily unable to occupy their residence.
But these provisions to reduce the possibility of absentee voter fraud were stricken by HB1355. Instead of being required to send an absentee ballot “By nonforwardable, return-if-undeliverable mail to the elector’s current mailing address on file with the supervisor,” supervisors now may be asked by anyone (even over the phone) to mail an absentee ballot “to any other address the elector specifies in the request.”
While shortening Florida's early voting period, eliminating early voting the Sunday before election Tuesday.....efforts which disproportionately affect independent and Democratic voters....the state's GOP leaders also made it EASIER to commit voter fraud by absentee ballot. More Republican voters in Florida vote by absentee ballot than do independent and Democratic voters.
Often I speak about Republican lawmakers "gaming the system". Florida's new vote suppression law is a case study in doing just that.....
HB1355 is an embarrassment, plain and simple. The Republican-controlled legislature’s intention was not to reduce voter fraud, of which there is virtually none when it comes to voter registration and early voting. The reason lawmakers turned a blind eye to absentee ballots in the state–where there is clear evidence of voter fraud–is because registered Republicans are much more likely to use this form of convenience voting than their Democratic counterparts. In 2008, Republicans had a 10.8% lead over Democrats voting absentee ballots by Election Day.
Shortening and limiting early voting in Florida will negatively affect Democratic and independent voters who tend to vote early more than their GOP counterparts. Loosening up absentee voting restrictions in Florida will positively affect Republican voters who tend to vote by absentee ballot.....by 11%.
Forget the basically non-existent voter fraud often tossed out in defense of suppressing voting. These GOP-implemented voting laws are meant to serve only one purpose....skewing elections, even if ever so slightly, in the favor of Republican Party candidates and initiatives.