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Voter Games

March 28, 2012

They say every vote counts—or at least it should.  Perhaps in no place is that more literally true than in Florida, where a switch of a few hundred votes in the official count for the 2000 election would have given us President Al Gore instead of George W. Bush.

So why have the Governor and legislature of Florida made it more difficult to register and to vote by imposing  onerous  new restrictions on organizations that have conducted voter registration drives and limited early voting periods in addition to requiring photo i.d. at the polls?  The answer is that, whenever possible, politicians—in this case the Republicans who rule the state government—prefer to choose their voters rather than have the voters choose them.

This morning’s New York Times carries a front page story on how the new law has caused a steep drop in new voter registrations in the state.  The Times’ analysis showed a drop off of 39 percent in Miami-Dade compared with the last presidential election year.  According to the Times, The League of Women Voters has halted its registration efforts in Florida, as has Rock the Vote, which works to register first-time young voters.

The new Florida restrictions are among the most stringent of a wave of similar measures in other Republican-dominated states.  Their proponents claim that the rules are necessary to prevent voter fraud, though they are hard-pressed to come up with specific examples of such fraud.  The more obvious reason is to limit voting by the poor, the young, and minorities, who are more likely to vote Democrat.

True, it’s not too hard to register to vote if you have easy Internet access or a driver’s license.  Information about voter registration is on the Florida Division of Elections website, and you can register at the DMV when you get your Florida license.

The problem is if you are poor and don’t have a car or driver’s license or ready access on line to get the information you need.  That’s where those voter drive tables in shopping malls, transit stations, and schools and colleges really helped.  But in Florida, they have all but disappeared.

The history of this country has always been toward expanding the voter franchise, but the Republican party now seems to want to go in the other direction—back to the days when only the “right” people voted.  It’s a shame.  Really.

From → Politics

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