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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

 
Too little too late?

by digby

Some good news on the vote suppression front:
A federal judge on Wednesday said he was prepared to grant a permanent injunction that would block controversial restrictions on voter registration groups passed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) last year.

Federal Judge Robert L. Hinkle had earlier put a temporary hold on the measure, declaring that it put "harsh and impractical" restrictions on civic groups focused on registering new voters. In his latest order, Hinkle stated that he intends to permanently block the law, pending the case's dismissal from a Court of Appeals. The plaintiffs and the state of Florida have reportedly agreed not to appeal Hinkle's ruling.

“This order is a decisive victory for Florida voters,” said Lee Rowland of the Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, one of the attorneys who argued the case for the plaintiffs, in a statement. “The Florida legislature has tried repeatedly to stifle access to voter registration opportunities, and once again a federal court has stopped them in their tracks. We are thrilled that voter registration groups can now get back to what they do best -- expanding our democracy.”
Unfortunately, it's only two months until the election and this has already happened:
Since a new set of state voting laws went into effect more than a year ago, the number of new Democrats registering in Florida has all but disappeared, according to a Times-Union review.

During the 13 months beginning July 1 the year before elections in 2004 and 2008, registered Democrats increased by an average of 209,425 voters. From 2011 to this year, that number was 11,365.

In Duval County alone there were about 13,000 new Democrats, meaning the rest of the state lost them.

Over that same time, the number of registered Republicans increased by 128,039, topping the average of 103,555 during the past two presidential cycles.

Overall, Democrats still hold a 445,794 statewide registration advantage.

On July 1, 2011, a sweeping election law overhaul passed by the Legislature put new restrictions on groups that hold voter registration drives. Among the changes, groups were required to file new voter registration applications with election officials within 48 hours, instead of the old 10 days, or face a penalty.

Groups said the new rules made it impossible to comply. As a result, many got out of the registration game until a federal judge ruled in their favor at the end of May, 11 months later.

“It has without a doubt hurt registration numbers,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Florida. “It really gummed up the works and made it harder for Floridians to get registered.”

Macnab said Democrats may have seen a bigger impact because registration groups often target areas that lean Democratic.

“We try to get to areas that don’t have easy access to traditional means of getting registered,” she said. “That’s places like college campuses, senior centers and low-income communities.”

Proponents argued the rules were needed to root out voter fraud.

“Increasing the accountability of those who collect voter registrations helps protect the rights of new voter registrants,” said Secretary of State Ken Detzner, even though local election officials say that hasn’t been a problem.

This was inevitable when the Democrats did nothing about electoral reform after the 200 debacle and then turned on their own during and after the 2008 election cycle by allowing voter registration efforts to be demonized with crude propaganda. Maybe they couldn't have stopped it, but they didn't make much of an effort to counter it and now the chickens have come home to roost. Failing to register virtually any new voters since 2010 in the state of Florida could prove to be a fatal error.

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