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What to do with a law to keep us from voting

An appalling law to limit early voting and make it harder to register people to vote awaits only the stroke of the governor's pen. But already, there's fallout.

The League of Women Voters of Florida, a nonpartisan organization all about involving the citizenry, registers thousands of voters a year. Once this onerous bill becomes law, no more.

And who can blame them?

Much consternation over what I've come to think of as the "too-much-voting" bill is over the slashing of the number of days we can vote early, from 14 to eight. This means folks who work or have trouble getting to the polls on election day will have fewer days to do so. If you are a cynical type, you might note that early voting tends to help Democrats.

But the sprawling bill also targets groups that register people to vote, an activity once thought of as downright patriotic. The bill, however, adds burdensome deadlines and requirements and assesses penalties if things go wrong.

The League of Women Voters is understandably not keen on subjecting its volunteers to fines and other penalties because a form is late. Expect grass roots groups that reach out with similar registration efforts to follow.

All of which must have sent the bill's backers into a frenzy of celebratory fist-bumping. Not even law yet, and — score!

Supporters claim the bill is about preventing voter fraud, which is like burning down a 1,000-acre wood because of the annoying chirp of a single cricket. In truth, we do not have rampant voter fraud.

Miami Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, bill sponsor, insists this legislation actually "enfranchises" voters — just not the kind who register through voter drives or vote early, I guess.

And for all his smugness, at least Sen. Mike Bennett showed his colors, opining that it's already too easy to vote here. "I want them to fight for it," the Bradenton Republican actually said out loud. "I want them to have to walk across town to vote." Yes, them. The days of us are apparently long over.

Here's some truth: Black and Hispanic voters are more than twice as likely to be registered in the kind of drives the league is known for, according to the Brennan Center for Justice, a nonpartisan voting rights think tank. More truth: This law will affect minority and low-income citizens, not to mention students.

Even now, I keep doing the wiggling-the-little-finger-in-the-ear thing to make sure I heard right. Since junior-high civics, we've been schooled in the principle that, regardless of race, gender or bank account, every eligible citizen in America deserves a voice and a vote. Everyone, not just the ones likely to vote the way we want them to.

Any hope on the horizon? Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking for an investigation by the Justice Department Civil Rights Division. The League of Women Voters is exploring "legal remedies." In either case, the real motivation for this law should be crystal clear. It's not fixing a problem, it's plain politics.

Then there's Gov. Rick Scott and the slimmest sliver of hope he will veto a bad bill, even one that could benefit him come election time. Hey, it's a still a free country where hope still springs eternal, at least until they pass a law against that, too.

Want the governor to know your thoughts on the voting bill? Call (850)488-7146, go to www.flgov.com, or e-mail rick.scott@eog.myflorida.com.

What to do with a law to keep us from voting 05/12/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 12, 2011 8:20pm]

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