Sunday, May 27, 2018
Editorials

Some voting roadblocks — not all — knocked down

The campaign by Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican-controlled Legislature to make it more difficult to register to vote and cast ballots is causing chaos less than 80 days before the general election. On the positive side, two federal court rulings will make it easier for third-party groups to register voters statewide and for voters to go to the polls early in five counties, including Hillsborough. But the Republican governor continues to pursue an imperfect, unnecessary purge of the voter rolls that will suppress the vote of minorities and low-income Floridians who tend to vote for Democrats.

First, the good news. A three-judge panel in Washington last week ruled that early voting provisions of a 2011 law would negatively impact voting by African-Americans and refused to approve it. The provision cut early voting days from 14 to eight and eliminated voting on the Sunday before the election. The record clearly shows that African-Americans disproportionately rely on early voting. The decision only affects five counties in Florida — Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe — because they are the only ones subject to preclearance requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

But the court's ruling is a clear indictment of the early voting changes, saying that the "dramatic reduction" in early voting "would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot." Protecting all of Florida's African-American voters from this discriminatory voting scheme would require that all 67 counties — not just five —return to the more generous days and hours of the prior law.

The court said Florida could compensate for the shorter number of days by increasing mandatory early voting hours from 48 hours to 96 hours, or 12 hours every early voting day. This may be acceptable, but only if the change were statewide. Otherwise, county supervisors of election in Hillsborough and the four other preclearance counties should not agree to the state's pressure tactics to unanimously embrace the court's suggestion. Floridians should not be voting under two different sets of rules — particularly when one set is racially discriminatory.

This ruling follows another quietly successful challenge to the 2011 law. In May, a federal court barred enforcement of a requirement that voter registration groups submit registration forms to elections offices within 48 hours of completion rather than 10 days, as had been the case under the prior law. Large fines accrued for noncompliance. The law was a transparent effort to dissuade third-party voter registration drives. Florida is not appealing the ruling.

Now, the bad news. Scott is continuing his efforts to interfere with the voter rolls by attempting to purge noncitizens, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud and a fast approaching election. The state and U.S. Department of Homeland Security agreed last week on how state elections officials can use the federal Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlement Programs, or SAVE database, to help identify noncitizens. Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner said his department will first submit the 2,600 names that had been prematurely sent to the state's supervisors of election — a faulty list that turned out to include American citizens. The SAVE database is no panacea, and a SAVE fact sheet says it may not accurately determine citizenship. County elections supervisors, who refused to use the state's flawed initial list, should remain vigilant and skeptical of any revised state list of allegedly ineligible voters — particularly as the election nears.

Instead of making it easier to register to vote and cast ballots, Scott and his Republican allies have done everything possible to make it harder. They should be held accountable for interfering with the fundamental right to vote.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18