"If you're going to do something make sure what the law says about it first"
That was said by one of our freedom worshiping GOP politicians. Without irony:
The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School's student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote.
Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida's new and controversial election law.
Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot.
Republican lawmakers who backed the rules said they were necessary to reduce voter fraud. Critics -- including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who testified before a congressional committee -- said the law would suppress voter participation.
Cicciarelli was on maternity leave in the spring when the Republican-led Legislature adopted the new rules, largely on party lines. Supporters said it was necessary to prevent voter fraud, though elections supervisors like McFall said they haven't had a problem.
"I don't see it," she said in a telephone interview last week from her office in DeLand. "I truly don't see it."
But supporters of the law view it as an attempt to be proactive at a time when elections are becoming so contentious that the potential for fraud is always a threat.
"There are reasons for the law," said state Rep. Dorothy Hukill, a Republican from Port Orange who voted for it. "Part of the reason is to protect people like (the students), so they know they're being registered properly."
It's still easy to register to vote, Hukill added, even if it means third-party groups that want to hold registration drives might have to do some more homework in advance.
"It does point out the need for more public education," Hukill added. "I applaud the poor teacher's efforts to get her students involved. She just didn't know. It just goes to show if you're going to do something, make sure you know what the law says about it."
We know what this is all about, of course. I have no idea how many of these students might be of the wrong race, so perhaps they just got caught in the net by mistake. But it occurs to me that if this keeps up the Republicans are going to regret doing what they've done. What makes them so sure that their voters are so smart and dedicated that they won't mind jumping through these ridiculous hoops to get registered to vote? It's not as if they are all educated elites ...