“So, let me now say to every Negro in this country: You must register. You must vote. You must learn, so your choice advances your interest and the interest of our beloved Nation. Your future, and your children’s future, depend upon it, and I don’t believe that you are going to let them down … If you do this, then you will find, as others have found before you, that the vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men. –President Lyndon Johnson Remarks in the Capitol Rotunda at the Signing of the Voting Rights Act August 6, 1965
Remember the 2000 Presidential Election that came down to a recount and thousands of Floridians being disenfranchised? Well the Florida GOP is at it again and recently announced a plan to purge the voting rolls of 180,000 potential non-citizens. In the last three weeks alone, the Florida Secretary of State’s office has identified and started to purge what it says are at least 50,000 dead voters from the state’s rolls and stripped out about 7,000 convicted felons.
“Florida has a very shameful history of purging minority voters based on false information before presidential elections,” said Katherine Culliton-Gonzalez, director of voter protection projects for the Advancement Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works to protect voter rights.
The 2000 presidential election was decided on 537 votes. The pathetic scene in 2000 was created by a convergence of administrative errors, technical glitches and a lack of judgment at the highest levels of election administration: broken polling machines, inaccurate and incomplete voter registration lists, inadequate language translation, inaccessible polling places, poorly trained poll workers and an overall lack of preparation for a large voter turnout that created long lines, eligible voters being turned away and valid votes left uncounted (Erika Woods).
Although voters across the state were stymied that year, poor and minority communities suffered the worst. In a report documenting its comprehensive investigation of the 2000 election, the United States Commission on Civil Rights found that approximately 11 percent of Florida voters in 2000 were African-American; yet African-Americans cast more than half of the 180,000 rejected ballots. The commission found that “statistical data, reinforced by credible anecdotal evidence, point to the widespread denial of voting rights.” The report then concluded that “the disenfranchisement of Florida’s voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters (Erika Woods).”
Since 2010, and the election of Governor Rick Scott in Florida, there has been many changes to Florida election laws aimed at suppressing the vote of minorities and the working poor, groups that historically vote democratic. First, the Florida GOP prohibited hundreds of thousands of voters with criminal records from voting, even those who served their time and are hardworking members of society. Under the new rules, even people with nonviolent convictions must wait five years after they complete all terms of their sentences before they are allowed to apply for restoration of civil rights; the clock resets if an individual is arrested, including for a misdemeanor, during the five-year waiting period. In some cases, people must wait seven years before being able to apply, and then they must appear in person for a hearing before the clemency board in Tallahassee. After the waiting period, the application and the hearing, you could be denied restoration with no reason or explanation. And if that happens, you have to wait another two years before starting the process all over again (Erika Woods).
Governor Scott signed an election law that makes it more difficult to register and to vote in Florida. The new law imposes restrictions and penalties on groups that register voters and slashes the number of days allowed for early voting, including eliminating the option of voting on the Sunday before Election Day which was utilized by many African Americans. Recently, according to the Tampa Bay Times, the former Chairman of the Florida Republican Party said party officials discussed ways in-which they could suppress the African American vote.
The current polls, in Florida, show a tight race between President Obama and Mitt Romney. Florida’s 29 Electoral Votes could very well determine the outcome of the 2012 Election. Every vote will count in this election and it’s disheartening that the Florida GOP is doing everything in their power to suppress the vote and steal the election.