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John Romano: Now, we can thank the people responsible for Florida's new voter laws

And now, a word of thanks.

Thanks for the lawsuits. And the faux hysteria.

Thanks for all the voter-registration drives that had to be canceled and for the expected increase in provisional ballots that may never be counted.

In a nutshell, thanks for making it harder for Floridians to vote.

And, yes, I know, this debt of gratitude would seem to be long overdue. But, honestly, the fault is not all ours.

When sweeping legislation was passed last year that severely cut early voting days, among other suppressive ideas, we were led to believe this was the brainchild of Very Serious Lawmakers who had Very Grave Concerns about voter fraud.

Turns out, the inspiration came from elsewhere.

While digging through depositions from a lawsuit filed by the League of Women Voters to overturn this legislation, the Palm Beach Post discovered the first draft of House Bill 1355 was written by the Florida Republican Party's general counsel.

And Emmett "Bucky'' Mitchell IV just happened to be the same person behind the attempted purge of felons from Florida's voter rolls in 2000, an ill-conceived plot that prevented thousands of eligible voters from casting ballots in the presidential election.

That exercise went so well, the U.S. Civil Rights Commission would later call the plan "disturbing'' and described it as "widespread voter disenfranchisement.''

So how was it that Mitchell came to write the first draft of another document that once again had the potential to limit voters in another presidential election in Florida?

He testified he was asked to author the legislation after a consultation with three officials from the state's Republican Party, including the former executive director, Andy Palmer, and the two men in charge of running the party's House and Senate campaigns, Frank Terraferma and Joel Springer.

"It underscores the fact that this law was not drafted in response to public policy needs, but as part of a partisan agenda to manipulate the voting rules,'' said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. "(This) is un-American and should be unacceptable to Florida citizens.''

I have to admit, it is quite interesting that the original source of HB 1355 was never disclosed, despite the amount of publicity it generated.

And it is, shall we say, coincidental that many of the voting groups most affected by the law tend to lean toward the Democratic Party.

Some provisions of the law — such as a 48-hour time limit for third-party groups to turn in new voter registration forms — have since been struck down in court.

Macnab, however, says the damage already has been done as groups like the League of Women voters had to suspend operations until the case came to a resolution.

"It's already had an impact with the decrease in new voter registration and the cuts in early voting days that have led to some extremely long lines from the reports we've gotten,'' she said. "On the positive side, this attempt at voter suppression has strengthened the resolve of voters to get out and have their voices heard.''

At least now you know who deserves full credit for changes in voting regulations this year. So if you have a moment to kill, remember to thank the Florida Republican Party.

Perhaps while standing in a line to vote.

John Romano: Now, we can thank the people responsible for Florida's new voter laws 10/29/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 10:57pm]
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