As submitted to The Huffington Post 4/24/09
*Author’s note..This is the revised article. It’s much less preachy and more evidence based than the previous one. Sometimes, when facing deadlines I tend to push too hard and let my passion get in the way of my better judgment. The need to get timely things into print takes over just proving the old adage that “Haste makes Waste.” Fortunately, for all of us, a veritable boatload of new information has come in which has changed things. There’s even more than what’s here, but to get through everything here it’s going to take a lot of time and I don’t want you to get bored. I’ll save it for a future column where the governor has to act.
Republicans in Florida overwhelmingly control both houses of the Legislature and they are determined on reversing the gains made during the 2008 elections. At the moment both houses are crafting legislation that would severely limit third party participation in voter registration drives, as well as offering ballot initiatives, redistricting reform and constitutional amendments. This would affect organizations such as ACORN, as well as the League of Women Voters to actively participate in the election process. Democrats in the legislature have cynically come to refer to these actions, specifically Senate Bill 956 as the “Republican Majority Protection Act”. The New York Times addressed this point in an April 18 Editorial: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/19/opinion/19sun2.html?_r=1
On April 20, Jim Callahan, a local civic activist stated that Florida Democrats now have a voter registration majority of over 690,000 throughout the state, but due to outrageously gerrymandered re-districting Republicans are still solidly in control, and by hook or by crook they intend to keep it that way. According to Callahan this legislation is the result of careful planning by organizations such as The Heritage Foundation, which will be targeting the same type of actions in other states which posted huge gains in the November election. This is not a new practice; it was tried before in Florida and struck down during 2006. Several articles were devoted to voter suppression at that time, here are two to ponder:
Furthermore, a very upsetting part of the process is that the Republican majorities in both houses were not allowing legitimate debate on these issues and trying to push them through on a fast track. Callahan stated that if the Republicans are successful here, it will serve as a handbook for Ohio, Missouri and other states where Democrats are making significant gains. He also noted that former congressman Tom Feeney, who was defeated by Suzanne Kosmas in 2008, is now employed at The Heritage Foundation, a fact that was announced in Politico April 14. Feeney has a long history of voter manipulation and gerrymandering districts as can be seen in his history in Wikipedia.
Numerous newspapers in Florida offered editorials questioning the legislation. The League of Women Voters and the ACLU among dozens of other civic groups are all actively opposing the passage of the two bills. The Florida House Democrats wrote a letter to Governor Charlie Crist outlining their opposition to PCB-EDCA 09-08 on April 22. Here is a copy, provided by Representative Elaine Schwartz of Hollywood District 99:
Dems Oppose Elections Bill By Kenneth Quinnell on April 22nd, 2009 From the House Dems:
Dear Governor Crist:
In recent years, Florida has revamped its election system and regained the confidence of voters. The benefits of these improvements were seen last November when record numbers of our citizens participated in the presidential election. You took action last fall to bolster our election system and laws by signing an executive order that extended the hours of early voting and eliminated problematic touch-screen machines. It would be a travesty for the Florida Legislature to take actions now that would reverse our state’s progress toward making our elections more open and accessible. Unfortunately, legislation has been proposed — without justification — that would disenfranchise voters and reverse much of the progress that has been made toward reforming elections in our state. On behalf of the House Democratic Caucus, we strongly urge you to make known your opposition to House PCB-EDCA 09-08 and its Senate companion, SB956. Also, should either bill pass the Legislature in any manner similar to its current form, we would further request that you veto the legislation. There is nothing more sacred than the right to vote and any legislation pertaining to this right deserves to be treated with extraordinary care and caution. As this bill currently reads, members of the House Democratic Caucus and numerous voter-advocacy and public interest groups find absolutely no justification for the radical changes entailed in this measure. The flaws in this legislation are too numerous to identify completely in this correspondence, but some of the troubling impacts are that it would: · Weaken campaign finance laws and make lawmakers less accountable to the public;· Reduce transparency in the funding of political advertisements;· Restrict the list of accepted forms of identification for voter registration and identification at the polls;· Discourage voter protection efforts;· Eliminate many voters’ ability to vote a regular ballot on Election Day;· Hurt third-party voter registration efforts;· Make it much harder for grassroots groups to use the citizens’ initiative process;· Restrict nonpartisan election protection programs; and· Limit the ability to extend early voting. On behalf of our constituents throughout Florida, we sincerely request your urgent consideration of this matter.
Franklin Sands, Democratic Leader Geraldine F. Thompson, Democratic Leader Pro Tempore
Also signed by: Representative Joseph Abruzzo: Representative Leonard Bembry: Representative Debbie Boyd: Representative Mary Brandenburg: Representative Oscar Braynon II: Representative Ronald Brisé: Representative Dwight Bullard: Representative James Bush III: Representative Charles Chestnut, IV: Representative Gwyndolen Clark-Reed: Representative Adam Feterman: Representative Keith Fitzgerald: Representative Luis R. Garcia, Jr: Representative Joseph Gibbons: Representative Audrey Gibson: Representative Bill Heller: Representative Evan Jenne: Representative Mia Jones: Representative Martin David Kiar: Representative Rick Kriseman: Representative Janet C. Long: Representative Mark Pafford: Representative Ari Porth: Representative Kevin J.G. Rader: Representative Scott Randolph: Representative Betty Reed: Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda: Representative Yolly Roberson: Representative Hazelle Rogers: Representative Daryl Rouson: Representative Maria Lorts Sachs: Representative Ron Saunders: Representative Elaine Schwartz: Representative Michael Scionti: Representative Kelly Skidmore: Representative Darren Soto: Representative Richard Steinberg: Representative Dwayne Taylor: Representative Priscilla Taylor: Representative Perry E. Thurston, Jr.: Representative Jim Waldman: Representative Alan Williams.
When Representative Schwartz was questioned about the tactics being used by the majority she offered her opinion:
My comment is that:
” The R’s know that only way they can win is by intimidation and cheating! ”
You’ve got to see that Schenck You tube clip. It’s as though he’s covering up for being caught red handed !…………… go to YouTube.com and search for Schenck. He always says to me ” May the Schwartz be with you”. He never tires of saying it. Tomorrow I’ll tell him that I saw his interview……and its too bad the Schwartz wasn’t with him when he made his blunder so he wouldn’t have to squirm so.
Here is the link:
The ACLU also sent e-mails to its membership denouncing both bills, which can be accessed here:
Yesterday, in a reversal, the house leadership took out most of the legislation that was being objected to. There are several articles in the Sayfie Review covering this legislation which can be found here:
Representative Schwartz claimed that it was in response to an implication that the governor would veto the present bill. At the same time, the ACLU was increasing the pressure to continue efforts to defeat the bills:
On April 23, Leon County Supervisor of Elections Ion Sancho who is non-partisan and has been in office for over 20 years issued his opinion of the legislation posted on YouTube:
The Florida House is expected to vote on Friday afternoon, April 24 on the modified election reform bill.
For an impact statement on Senate Bill 956 follow this link: