1. Opinion

Don't let obstacles stop you from voting

Published Nov. 5, 2012

Gov. Rick Scott, the Republican-led Legislature and the Republican Party of Florida have done everything they can to discourage you from voting and participating in democracy. Don't let them get away with it. Floridians who haven't already voted should make an extra effort today to get to the polls, cast their ballots and let their voices be heard — regardless of which candidates they support.

The long lines of voters over the weekend and again on Monday were as inspiring as they were frustrating. Scott and his allies in the Legislature embraced a new law that made it harder to register people to vote and to vote early. Then the governor tried to suppress the vote by pursuing a sloppy purging of the voting rolls, which would have disproportionately affected minorities and others who tend to vote Democratic. So it is no surprise that Scott refused to listen to pleas to extend early voting hours over the weekend to address the hourslong waits in many areas.

Yet Floridians are not easily stonewalled. We are navigating the bureaucracy, coping with a ridiculously long ballot clogged by the Legislature's 11 constitutional amendments, and exercising our right to vote. Do not be deterred today. While more than 4.5 million voters already have cast their ballots, more than 7 million voters still have an opportunity to go to the polls today and be counted.

In this nation, at this moment, it should not be this hard to vote. We know who is responsible for making it this difficult. The general counsel of the state Republican Party, after consultation with top party aides, wrote the first draft of the 2011 election law, the Palm Beach Post reports. Scott and Republican legislators signed off on it, cutting early voting days from 14 to eight and circumventing the required approval from the Justice Department. And it was Scott who ignored the pleas of nearly 200 voters Sunday in Miami as they waited outside an elections office and shouted, "Let us vote!"

The reaction on Twitter from state Republican Party communications director Brian Burgess to pleas to extend early voting: "Manufactured outrage.'' That sums up the contempt for voters coming from the governor's office, the Legislature and the political party that controls Tallahassee. Show them today that you will not be denied your right to vote.

The governor and the Legislature have not entirely gotten their way. The courts overturned a portion of the 2011 law that made it harder to register voters and insisted on 96 hours of early voting in five voting rights counties, including Hillsborough. The Justice Department and county supervisors of elections put a stop to Scott's initial purging of the voter rolls. And elections supervisors in Tampa Bay, South Florida and elsewhere found a way around the elimination of early voting after Saturday, allowing voters to cast absentee ballots in person on Sunday and Monday. Only the independence of the courts and the elections supervisors — and the stubborn determination of the voters — prevented Scott and the Legislature from getting away with dramatically suppressing the vote. Even with those efforts, early voting favored by Democrats is down from 2008 while absentee balloting favored by Republicans is up.

Millions of Floridians already have gone to extraordinary lengths to vote, driving outside their neighborhoods to elections offices and waiting for hours. But today remains a critical election day that will reveal plenty about our values as we select a president, members of Congress, state legislators and county officials. If you haven't voted yet, go vote. Send a message to Republicans in Tallahassee that regardless of party affiliation or race, Floridians will exercise their right to vote — regardless of the rules that make it more difficult, the length of the ballot or how long it takes.