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May 28 2013

Florida Reverses Voter Suppression Laws

In a rare case of apparently doing the right thing, Gov. Rick Scott of Florida has signed into law a bill that reverses most of the changes made after he came into office that made it more difficult to register and vote in that state, causing long lines and chaos on election day.

Monday he signed a bill that reinstates many of the 2012 reductions the conservative Florida legislature pushed through before the election.

The new bill extends early voting from 8 days to 14, extends early voting hours from 8 to 12 hours a day, and expands polling places to include courthouses, civic centers, stadiums, convention centers, fairgrounds and government-owned senior and community centers to keep up with crowds.

It also seeks to make ballot length more manageable by restricting constitutional amendments to a maximum of 75 words, and loosens some of the restrictions on when voters have to file provisional ballots.

It also permits county supervisors to hold early voting on the Sunday before the election, “respecting the ‘souls to the polls’ tradition of many black churches,” as reported by the Florida Current.

The bill moves back Florida’s primary elections from January to the first Tuesday allowed by Democratic and Republican National Committees to avoid penalties.

And lastly, the bill imposes $25,000 fines for failing to fix voting machines, something that reportedly snarled elections in Palm Beach County, according to the Sun Sentinel.

“Sometimes it felt like climbing a mountain with concrete boots,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, “but with the governor’s signature on this election reform package, Florida has achieved what many of us thought at one time might be impossible: a huge improvement to our democratic process and a giant step forward for Florida voters.”

I’d like to see this spread, but I doubt it will. Maybe in Ohio, where Gov. John Kasich seems to have backed down from the more extreme policies he championed early in his term, like Scott has begun to do in some cases.

21 comments

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  1. 1
    theschwa

    Is this an Onion article?

  2. 2
    mandyjane

    Governor Skeletor is in full on damage control mode, unfortunately it’s working. His approval rating is improving. Well, at least some good for Floridians has come out of it.

  3. 3
    ArtK

    Cynical me is thinking: “Hmmmm. I wonder what new suppression tactic they have in plan.” I find the reversal to be suspicious.

  4. 4
    naturalcynic

    Sometimes embarrassment works.

  5. 5
    doublereed

    I don’t understand why he’s doing this. I thought Florida has one-term governors and they’re basically unimpeachable. What caused the change in heart?

  6. 6
    Karen Locke

    Too many elderly Republican voters were inconvenienced in the last election.

  7. 7
    composer99

    As I recall, almost immediately after the 2012 election, Republicans were pointing out their party needed to find ways to appeal to minorities (whether via smoke & mirrors or via a genuine change in policy) in order to have a hope of winning elections down the road.

    Perhaps this might be just such a measure?

  8. 8
    andrewpang

    I think Scott is doing this in prep for the 2014 gubernatorial election. Typical American Politics As Usual.

  9. 9
    Pierce R. Butler

    doublereed @ # 5: … I thought Florida has one-term governors and they’re basically unimpeachable.

    Wrong on the first premise, almost-right on the second.

    The Gunshine state allows governors to serve two terms, which (sigh) empowered us to endure a double dose of Jeb! (how John Ellis Bush spells his name on bumper stickers).

    We have no power of recall over elected state officials. Impeachment is technically possible, but the legislature here has gerrymandered itself into an apparent permanent Rethuglican majority, so in practice impeachment applies only to Democratic governors (should we ever see one again).

  10. 10
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    @doublereed: No, FL governors can be re-elected. After what he’s done here over the last 5 years, there’s no doubt in my mind that his recent reversals of TP-inspired BS are motivated solely by wanting to be re-elected. At least in my area, no one is buying it. I think the fact that he’s so blatantly trying to pander to the electorate instead is showing his low opinion of them.

  11. 11
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    Pierce, there’s a good chance we’ll see a Democratic candidate win in ’14.

  12. 12
    doublereed

    They can be re-elected???

    THEN WHY WAS HE DOING ALL THIS AWFUL STUFF TO BEGIN WITH???!!

  13. 13
    timberwoof

    Election Pavement. Now he can crow about how Republicans are all about protecting voters’ rights.

    I was surprised at how they had to authorize polling places to be at buildings of specific types in a list. In San Francisco, the election commission wants everyone to have their polling place within a few blocks of where they live, so many are in people’s garages. (The City even brings in porta-potties!) The people-load on each one isn’t gargantuan the way it would be with the Florida Republican big-government model (you see what I did there) and it’s harder to rig enough polling places to make a difference. That takes malfeasance higher up in the system, which you have to guard against either way.

  14. 14
    D. C. Sessions

    Why is the Florida PoG doing this?

    Quite possibly because they found out that it was counterproductive. They actually got them so pissed off that the turnout increased instead of decreased. So they’re backing off in hopes of getting the “wrong people” to calm down and go back to low turnout in off-years.

  15. 15
    Pierce R. Butler

    Gvlgeologist, FCD @ # 11: … there’s a good chance we’ll see a Democratic candidate win in ’14.

    Wanna lay out some odds on how long until she’s impeached?

  16. 16
    Pierce R. Butler

    Just noticed this part of the report:

    The bill moves back Florida’s primary elections from January to the first Tuesday allowed by Democratic and Republican National Committees..

    So now the dates of Fla primaries will be decided by out-of-state partisan political apparatchiks? What could possibly go wrong with that?

  17. 17
    martinc

    Hate to saddle up the “we do it better than you guys” pony again re voting, but in Australia, elections are held on a Saturday, so we can use the government schools as polling booths. They’re already scattered throughout the places people live, they’re empty on Saturdays, and they are owned by the government anyway, so no rent required.

    Oh, and Saturday polling means very few people have to choose between working and voting.

  18. 18
    valhar2000

    I’m inclined to agree with Karen Locke; I think they figured out that the policies they put in place do not discriminate against democratic voters and in favor of republican voters enough, so they need to replace them with other policies that have a more precise effect.

  19. 19
    democommie

    “so they need to replace them with other policies that have a more precise effect.”

    Eeezy-peezy! You simply require that black, poor, teh Gay and others that might vote “D” have to PROVE that they’re NOT Kenyalizardomuslifascists in order to vote.

  20. 20
    chilidog99

    Martina @17, here in evil illinois, we use the schools and give the kids the day of.

  21. 21
    freemage

    The $25,000 fine for not maintaining voting machines is a bit of a two-edged blade, at least:

    Sure, the poor maintenance led to a lot of the problems. But the reason those machines were allowed to fall apart in the first place is that Florida doesn’t actually buy machines for the whole state; instead, each district has to provide their own, and maintain them. So a lot of poor districts had a choice between, say, paving streets and funding schools on one hand, and paying someone to repair the ballot machine on the other. Now, if they opt for immediate services, their ability to provide those services in the future will be curtailed.

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