Gov. Rick Scott

  • 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.

  • August 17, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Earlier in the week the rightwing push for new restrictions on voting received support of a Pennsylvania state court judge, who failed to see how the state’s strict voter ID law could keep people from the polls. But the effort in Florida to curtail voting opportunities, also led by conservative policymakers, found resistance late yesterday from a federal court in D.C. that concluded the state’s measure to limit earlier voting opportunities disproportionally targeted African-Americans.

    Like a string of other statehouses, mostly controlled by Republicans, Florida lawmakers implemented an overhaul of voting procedures in the state, which included rigid voter ID requirements, an attempt to hamper voter registration drives and limitations on early voting opportunities. Fla. Gov. Rick Scott has also urged county officials to purge voter rolls. The Department of Justice and several civil liberties groups have challenged the efforts to restrict voting, and five counties in Florida must get pre-clearance from the DOJ or a federal court before making changes to voting procedures. Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 prohibits several states and localities with histories of voter discrimination from altering voting procedures without federal pre-clearance.

    The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled late Thursday that curtailing early voting opportunities in Hillsborough, Monroe, Collier, Hardee and Hendry counties would have a discriminatory impact on black voters.

    The three-judge panel concluded, in part, that the “state has failed to satisfy its burden of proving that those changes will not have a retrogressive effect on minority voters.” The panel added that restricting early-voting is “analogous to closing polling places in disproportionately African-American precincts.”  

    Ryan P. Haygood, director of the Political Participation Group at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, one of the group’s challenging Florida’s restrictions on voting said in a statement regarding the litigation that implementation of the measures “would be devastating for Black and other minority voters in the state.”

  • July 16, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Although it can be argued that the state governors threatening to forgo implementing the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid have a skewed idea of state sovereignty, likely closer to the truth is that most of the governors are carrying on a tawdry tradition of denying help to the most vulnerable.

    S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley, Fla. Gov. Rick Scott, La. Gov. Bobby Jindal and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have all vowed that their states will not expand their Medicaid programs to millions of uninsured, even though pursuant to the ACA the federal government will cover most of the costs of implementing the expansion. The New York Times reports that the expansion of Medicaid would add “17 million people to the rolls, accounting for half of all uninsured people expected to gain coverage nationwide.”

    All those governors have offered typical, but disingenuous complaints that the federal government is forcing the states to spend money they don’t have. They also predictably paint the federal government as pushing wasteful domestic programs or offering more free things to people.

    It is the same tired, offensive and often racially tinged complaint that conservative politicians have been peddling for decades in their nonstop attack on government.

    Gov. Scott called the ACA’s Medicaid provision “a massive entitlement expansion,” and Gov. Rick Perry (pictured) who presides over a state with the largest number of uninsured said the Affordable Care Act “would make Texas “a mere appendage of the federal government.”

    University of Maryland School of Law professor Sherrilyn Ifill in an opinion piece for CNN said the governors are carrying on a long tradition of not doing a terribly good job of governing.

    “These elected leaders are following a longstanding tradition in American politics of Southern states acting against the best interest of their residents,” she writes.

  • June 21, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Unless the Department of Justice and civil rights groups are able to block or greatly minimize Florida’s onerous new restrictions on voting and kill the state’s tawdry attempt to purge voter rolls, the constitutional right to vote for many will face serious obstacles in the sunshine state.

    Florida is by no means the only state bent on making the right to a vote a major pain. Wisconsin, South Carolina, Texas, and other Republican controlled states have been working feverishly to ensure that turnout among Latino voters, African American voters, low-income voters, the elderly, and college voters is greatly reduced in this year’s general election. Because Florida is deemed a swing state by political reporters, it garners more attention than some of the other state actions. But Fla. Gov. Rick Scott has also helped attract attention with his staunch defense of the voter suppression tactics.

    The DOJ and a string of civil rights groups, such as the Advancement Project, the Brennan Center for Justice, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the League of Women voters, and others, are fighting the purge and the state’s onerous new voter restrictions.  

    Co-Director of the Advancement Project Judith Browne blasted Gov. Scott’s purge as a partisan effort to “suppress the vote.”

    Ryan P. Haygood, director of the Political Participation Group at NAACP Legal Defense Fund, in a press statement about a lawsuit challenging changes to Florida’s voting laws, said his group is battling an attempt to “discourage political participation” especially of the state’s minority voters.

    “Implementation of these additional discriminatory changes to Florida’s voting laws would be devastating for Black and other minority voters in the state,” Haygood said.

    The groups’ efforts may irk the state’s right-wing politicians and their apologists in the media, but they are likely the only hope for salvaging the right to vote for scores of Latinos, African Americans, the elderly and many others.

    The Brennan Center for Justice and the League of Women Voters, among other groups, have sued to scuttle portions of Florida’s new voter suppression law, such as the rigid requirements on voter registration drives and stringent requirements for voter identification. As noted here they have had some success with a federal judge blocking the provision against third-party voter registrations.

  • June 8, 2012

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Florida’s Republican Gov. Rick Scott has attracted plenty of attention for his heavy-handed attempt to purge “noncitizens” from the voter rolls. But that voter purge, which the Department of Justice has ordered the state to halt, is only part of that state’s Republican-led effort to suppress voter turnout.

    A relatively new Florida law, H.B. 1355, created onerous restrictions on voter-registration drives, cut early voting opportunities and created new burdensome voter identification requirements. Similar laws have been enacted in other states with Republicans in charge, such as Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin. In all those states, Republicans claim widespread voter fraud is the justification for the onerous restrictions.

    Civil liberties groups, such as Brennan Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF), ACLU, however, argue that voter fraud is practically nonexistent, and thus a blatantly lame excuse for the new laws. This is really an effort to suppress the vote of minorities, college students, and the poor.

    A new ACS Issue Brief by Loyola Law School Professor Justin Levitt examines the new Florida law, concluding that “these burdens are not only real and inequitable but also unnecessary, which renders them suspect as a matter of constitutional law and fundamentally flawed as a matter of public policy. Not only do they make it more difficult for eligible Americans to vote, but they do so without any meaningful benefit.”

    Levitt’s Issue Brief, “The New Wave of Election Regulation: Burden Without Benefit,” details how Florida’s new law disproportionately burdens minority voters, saying that it is now very likely non-Hispanic white voter turnout will remain much higher than minority voters in 2012. In 2008, Levitt notes that a persistent gap between minority voters and non-Hispanic white voters had substantially narrowed for the first time.

    The restrictions on early voting and the new voter identification requirements are likely to sharply restrict minority, low-income and elderly voters. The “available date clearly show that those without government-issued photo ID are more likely to be nonwhite, more likely to either younger voters or seniors, and more likely to be from low-income households, and more likely to have less formal education,” Levitt states.