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John Romano: Democrats hope power of shame leads to election reforms

Life isn't complicated when you're the party in power. You write the legislation, you get your people on board, and you don't give a rip what your opponents are saying.

This is not necessarily evil; it is simply a perk of being in control.

Of course, the process is trickier for a party lacking in power. When your numbers are nowhere close to a majority, you look for other ways to exert your influence.

Like the power of shame. Or the threat of embarrassment.

Which brings us to a corner of Lykes Gaslight Square Park in downtown Tampa on Wednesday morning. Former Gov. Charlie Crist was there. So were state Rep. Darryl Rouson and Rep.-elect Dwight Dudley, not to mention a couple of Democratic Party bigwigs.

The official reason for the gathering was to discuss legislation Rouson will introduce in 2013 to extend early voting days and expand the number of early voting locations.

These are sensible proposals that should absolutely be considered by the Legislature next spring. But since Republican leaders have been pushing the exact opposite agenda, these reforms are going to need more than common sense and decency to survive.

So let the humiliating begin.

"Unconscionable" was one word they used to describe the GOP voting plan. "Appalled" was another. "Laughingstock" worked its way into the conversation, and the ridiculously long voting lines in South Florida came up every 12 seconds or so.

It's a campaign by shame, and it just might work.

We already know the people running the state prefer to cater early voting procedures to friendlier demographics, so pointing out how moronic Florida looked on Election Day might be the only effective strategy available.

Will the embarrassment be enough?

"I hope so, because there's a price to pay for not doing it," Crist said. "I think what we saw on Election Day was a real backlash.

"Initially … citizens were frustrated, but I think soon they became infuriated. And I think they made the determination that no matter what, they were not going to be deterred from casting that vote. It's just hard to believe that somebody would put all these roadblocks in place for the people they work for."

No one is under the illusion that the governor or the Legislature will suddenly realize on their own that the plan to constrict early voting had zero redeeming value.

When Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush can look out their own back doors in South Florida and not be the least bit concerned by their neighbors' standing in voting lines at 1 a.m., then you can pretty much assume the Republican Party is not going to be racked by self-doubt or remorse.

And so Democrats will continue playing up the idea that Florida's voting record is a recurring punch line to most of America.

It may be a form of political blackmail, but it may also be having the desired effect.

If you recall, in the aftermath of the election, Scott was pretending Florida's effort was a rousing success. Now, just a week later, he's divorcing himself from the entire process, saying it was lawmakers who put the voting policies into place and it is the Legislature that must re-evaluate the process and make necessary changes.

Turns out, if you can't beat them, you can always humiliate them.