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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Florida Republicans’ cold, calculated effort to suppress the vote

More evidence that we still need the Voting Rights Act: The racial bias that led to it is alive and well.

            Here’s the voter suppression debate in a nutshell:

            Republicans: We just want to cut back on early voting and impose photo identification requirements to curb fraud.

            Democrats: You just want to make it harder for poor people and people of color to vote.

            But once in awhile, a Republican tells the real story – as when Mike Turzai, the majority leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, seen on this 13-second video, explains exactly why his state passed a voter ID law:


            And now, a cold dose of reality from the Sunshine State – straight from the elephants’ mouths.

            First, Florida’s former Republican governor, Charlie Crist said that, as The Palm Beach Post put it in a comprehensive story Sunday, “fraud concerns were advanced only as a subterfuge for the law’s main purpose: GOP victory.”  Then came a former chairman of the Florida Republican Party – Jim Greer.

            “The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants. “They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.”

            Current top Republican officials in Florida dismiss Greer and Crist as the equivalent of disgruntled ex-employees. Crist became an independent and endorsed President Obama.  The Post notes that Greer faces criminal charges of stealing $200,000 from the party.  Greer denies the charges – and is suing the party.

But Crist and Greer aren’t the only ones coming forward.  The Post quotes what it calls “two veteran GOP campaign consultants” who confirm their charges.

Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.  “In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. …

Another GOP consultant, who did not want to be named, also confirmed that influential consultants to the Republican Party of Florida were intent on beating back Democratic turnout in early voting after 2008.

All of these current and former Republicans said the voter suppression efforts targeted African Americans.

Attempts to stop African Americans and other people of color from voting are why Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 – and why it was reauthorized by near-unanimous vote in 2006.  Now, a key provision of the law has been challenged in the Supreme Court.  That provision requires certain states and localities – including five counties in Florida – to get permission from the U.S. Department of Justice or a federal court before changing voting procedures.  As a result, Florida had to negotiate with the federal government over voting hours in those counties.

But what happens if the Supreme Court rules this key section of the Voting Rights Act unconstitutional?  Will that further embolden those whose real goal is preventing people of color from voting?

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