Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Editorials

Florida's voting fairness problem

As Republican primary voters go to the polls today, there is a cloud over the state's voting process. Florida law imposes undue burdens on African-American, Hispanic and younger voters, according to witnesses at a U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing in Tampa on Friday. The testimony adds to the mounting evidence that the election law changes Florida Republicans passed last spring to ostensibly address voter fraud — a nonexistent problem in this state — are designed to interfere with the voting rights of Democratic-leaning constituencies.

Six of the seven witnesses that testified at the Senate subcommittee field hearing on protecting the right to vote in Florida said that the new election law is making it harder for Floridians to register to vote and cast a regular ballot. Early voting has been reduced from 14 days to eight and is barred on the Sunday before Election Day; penalties and fines are imposed for third-party groups that fail to submit completed voter registration forms within 48 hours; and voters who moved to another county are required to cast a provisional ballot rather than change their address at the polls.

At the hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights that was requested by Sen. Bill Nelson, more evidence emerged that these restrictions fall disproportionately hard on minority groups. This is important since a three-judge federal panel in Washington is reviewing the new Florida law for violations of the Voting Rights Act. Five counties — Hillsborough, Collier, Hardee, Hendry and Monroe — with a history of voter discrimination must "preclear" any changes to voting procedures before they go into effect. (Because of this, today's election is being held under two sets of rules, one for those five counties and one for everywhere else.

Daniel Smith, a professor of political science at the University of Florida, offered this statistical proof of discrimination: In the 2008 general election, African-Americans comprised only 13 percent of total voters but were 31 percent of voters on the Sunday before Election Day. Similarly the state's Hispanic voters were 11 percent of total voters but made up 22 percent of those who cast their ballot on the last Sunday of early voting. Obviously eliminating early voting on that day suppresses the turnout of minority voters who tend to vote Democrat.

Ann McFall, the supervisor of elections of Volusia County, and a Republican, testified that the law is onerous and unnecessary. McFall was particularly incensed over the requirement that people who move to a new county must use a provisional ballot and can no longer update their address at the polls. She said this will have a serious impact on college student voter participation. McFall noted that the most active college campus in her county is Bethune-Cookman University, a historically black university, where students march from the campus to an early voting site for every major election.

Florida does not have a problem with voter fraud, as every hearing witness agreed. But the state does have a fairness problem, with an election law designed to keep some people from participating in the democratic process.

Comments

Wednesday’s letters: How home rule can help fight Red Tide

Red Tide on march | Sept. 18How home rule can help fight Red TideAt the end of 2005, as Red Tide ravaged the beaches and intracoastal waterways of Southwest Florida, volunteers from the Suncoast Sierra Club formed a coastal task force to begin de...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Editorial cartoons from Times wires
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18

Column: We’re measuring the economy all wrong

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the official economic statistics — the ones that fill news stories, television shows and presidential tweets — say that the U.S. economy is fully recovered.The unemployment rate is lower tha...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectation’’ is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18