Fla. Officials Not Giving up Effort to Limit Voter Turnout

November 2, 2012

by Jeremy Leaming

Right up to the final hours of the 2012 general elections some state officials in an array of states will undoubtedly continue their tiresome efforts to discourage and turn away from the polls potential voters.

Just today, as reported by The Miami Herald, Fla. Gov. Rick Scott (R), is rebuffing requests from the League of Women Voters of Florida and other civil liberties groups to extend early voting hours there, citing the long lines at early voting sites. The newspaper notes that since the start of early voting in Broward County alone has “averaged more than 28,400 voters a day. Miami-Dade averaged more than 26, 300.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida, among others, asked Scott (pictured) to extend early voting to include Sunday, Nov. 4. But “top Republican officials,” told the newspaper that no extension is needed. Gov. Scott enacted a voting overhaul law in 2011 greatly reducing the number of early voting days, including the Sunday before Election Day. That law also included measures limiting voter registration drives and an onerous Voter ID law. Groups, such as the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and the ACLU have had success through litigation in blunting or blocking some of the law’s measures.

Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, told the Orlando Sentinel that the long waits “are discouraging to voters whose schedules and or physical conditions cannot accommodate these types of delays.”

Rightwing groups and pundits have advocated for such limitations on voting, claiming that voter fraud mars the nation’s elections. As pointed on out on this blog numerous times and by many others, see Jane Mayer’s recent New Yorker piece, in-person voter fraud is essentially myth. A recent “state-by-state map” by Nick McClellan, for Slate, reveals that there is very little evidence of voter fraud.

In an ACS Issue Brief exploring some of the states’ effort to limit voting, Loyola School of Law Professor Justin Levitt zeroed in on Florida’s voting overhaul law writing that it managed to inconvenience “voters and local election officials alike while offering little meaningful benefit to the election process.”

But one the Florida provision barring early voting on the Sunday before Election Day appears likely to have the most impact. “The list of jurisdictions choosing to offer early voting on Sunday before Election Day in the past includes the state’s largest, most urban, and most diverse counties,” Levitt wrote.

Like other voting restrictions, Levitt noted, the limit on early voting in Florida disproportionately harm African Americans and Latinos. “In 2008, for example, African-Americans represented 13 percent of the total voters, and 22 percent of the early voters, but 31 percent of the total voters on the final Sunday; Hispanic citizens represented 11 percent of the total voters, and 11 percent of the early voters, but 22 percent of the total voters on the final Sunday.” The pattern, Levitt continued was similar in the 2010 midterm elections.

Beyond peddling the voter fraud myths, other rightwing pundits just can’t fathom why voting has to be easy. NRO’s Jonah Goldberg recently suggested we should put more effort into the endeavor. At the end of the day, however, we keep seeing repeated efforts to keep certain groups of people from participating in democracy. The reasons for the limitations have become more nuanced, but the goal is just as tawdry.