Republican state Sen. Alan Hays of Umatilla is either woefully ignorant or suffers from a befuddled anti-Hispanic bias, or both. Hays' ham-handed suggestion last week that Hispanic citizens should be singled out for special scrutiny before the state creates a Hispanic-serving congressional district in Central Florida smacks of Jim Crowism and caters to the worst prejudices of elements in his party's extreme right wing.
Hays set off a firestorm of bipartisan criticism when he suggested during a Senate Reapportionment Committee hearing Tuesday that before any congressional district in Central Florida is created to represent the increased numbers of Hispanics, efforts need to be made to determine if those residents are U.S. citizens. "We all know there are many Hispanic people in Florida that are not legal," Hays said, adding, "And I just don't think it's right we try to draw a district that encompasses people that really have no business voting anyhow."
The senator's demagoguery is unfounded on a multitude of levels, beginning first with U.S. Census data showing Central Florida's Hispanic population growth has been fueled by an influx of Puerto Rico residents, whom Hays should know are U.S. citizens. At the same time, there is no evidence of epidemic voter fraud in Florida, much less hordes of illegal aliens attempting to cast tainted ballots.
As well, Hays should know that under the state's motor voter law, which allows someone to register to vote when they obtain their driver's licence and which requires multiple forms of identification, it would be extremely difficult for an illegal alien to gain a voter registration card.
Hays owes the state's Hispanic population an apology and should also resign from the apportionment committee. The 10-year legislative exercise in redistricting requires honest brokers, not divisive ethnic gamesmanship.