Columns

There Is No Such Thing as Voter Suppression in Florida

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: February 18, 2014 3:55 AM
I Beg to Differ

A Democrat who didn't want to give his name got me up at 4:30 Monday morning to scold me for "defending voter suppression at UF." I suppose it's because of Allison Nielsen's fine story on Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy's comments.

I resented the angry wake-up call. But it isn't the first of its kind I've received, and I think it's time to lay to rest allegations of my so-called political bias on this subject.

You want to know where I stand on voter suppression? For the record, here it is:

Voter suppression is a crock.

Unless you can show me somebody locked in a basement for two or three weeks, there are no suppressed voters in Florida.

How many days does a citizen need to find the polls or get an absentee ballot? Add another week, another month. Open more sites. It matters not a dickey bird. You can create a polling place in everybody's front yard if you want and you still won't move the hand on the turnout clock a single tick.

Citizens who want to vote, do. They have the impetus. They want to have a say in the democratic process. They find the time and the means to inform themselves, get to the polls and exercise their right as Americans.

For heaven's sake, we used to have one voting day in this country -- and if I had my way, we would return to Election Day -- make it a day off, a day of national reverence if you will, triple the number of polling places, expand the hours so sites are open 20 hours and devote the whole of the day to getting ourselves and the elderly and infirm who need our help to the polls.

Why don't we just do that?

Doesn't the fact that early voting is such a contentious issue in America today tell us how poisoned our politics has become? The idea that we require a season of voting days to convenience marginally interested or downright lazy people to vote just because one party distrusts the other is pure, unadulterated rubbish.

Expensive rubbish at that. In fact, the state Division of Elections tells me the cost of elections, not just to taxpayers but to campaigns, is so out of control in Florida no one knows for sure what the real cost is. (The DOE didn't say "out of control," I did.  It said "all over the place.") Looking at other states, the cost to taxpayers is apparently $24 million in New Jersey for one statewide election; more than $100 million in Texas, where early voting began in 1991; but a bargain $2.6 million in Maryland.

It's an insult to the intelligence of Americans, whether they're minorities in Miami or students on a university campus, to tell them they're being duped, that somebody is trying to take their voting rights away because they can't have another few days to vote or another polling station within eyesight. Does anybody actually think students at the University of Florida last week couldn't see through Charlie Crist's self-serving spin?

This is nothing new for me. I've been fighting for a return to election sanity ever since Florida adopted early voting and it failed to do what legislators promised -- increase voter turnout. I wrote about it in Stuart before I arrived in Tallahassee, and I wrote about it twice before at Sunshine State News -- here and here.

So please don't say I'm any party's tool as a voice in the "voter suppression" issue, not at 4:30 in the morning or anytime. I'm old-fashioned. I'm part of the old school. Or call me naive. Or just plain old, what the heck. I've lived without early voting and with it, but having done both, I can tell you there is something about voting on Election Day that feels special. There is something thrillingly patriotic and communitarian about it. And I think we've lost a lot by not doing it together.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423.  


Comments (23)

Steven Caufield
2:12PM APR 16TH 2014
I'm confused by your hyperlinks on the cost of early voting. Only one of them, the link for Maryland, actually points to an article establishing the costs of early voting. Your cite for the cost of early voting in Texas contains no such data, and in fact states that there is no accurate reporting of costs state wide, but you somehow offer that as evidence of statewide costs in the ballpark of $100,000,000? How did you come up with that number? Even using the high per vote costs from Tarrant County (offered as a high cost outlier in the information you linked to) times the entire population of the state doesn't even get you to costs of $50,000,000, much less a number more than double that. With that in mind, please explain how this was offered as fact in this piece and published in this fine publication.
John Paul Jones
11:51AM FEB 19TH 2014
Well I think we can all agree that voting is a right. The problem is that far too many people don't have the first clue what a "right" is. A right doesn't mean someone else has to give something to you. It means there is some activity that the government cannot prevent you from engaging in. So voting is a right, but it is a person's own responsibility or decision to get off their backside, register, and go vote (preferably with a photo ID that proves they are eligible). So as long as the election process is open, applies equally to all, and the laws consistently enforced, there is no suppression. You progressives are insane. And your constant assertions that minorities and women can't get out and vote without all of your programs is belittling to all minorities and women.

OK Frank, now you can go to Wikipedia and moveon to get your talking points responses. Be sure to include accusations of racism.
Frank
7:54PM FEB 19TH 2014
Ah, yes, you must be right . . . there never has been voter suppression in Florida . . . all the judge rulings otherwise, and all the post-election studies indicating there was, must be in error . . . . only John Paul, like Ann Coulter (who can't even vote in the right polling place) and Rush Limbaugh have the right truth . . . . . or should we say the FoxNoise truthiness . . . . . . . glad I can get your goat . . . and from so far away . . . . but then I'm not the one who's previously stated (Oct 21st) about our elected democracy that "I'm so thankful that millions of us have guns or God knows what unsavory methods you crazies would attempt to force your oppressive and destructive ways on us" . . . . SIGH . . .

And an interesting fact became apparent when I went back searching for that quote of yours . . . seems my SSN fan club identical twins 'Fran k" and "Franc" went commenting this Feb. 4th (four months after the fact) on comments I had made about yours and others comments on that date back last year. . . wouldn't know anything about that, now would you . . . . probably not, as you generally seem to have a little more class than that (even if you sometimes make stupid comments like above) . . . . . but, it takes a lot of far right faux courage to comment four months after previous comments . . . and not be more than a little self-obsessive delusional . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Gabe Leighton
11:32AM FEB 18TH 2014
Hey Nance look how you got the Democrats all riled up. Must have hit a nerve. You know me I don't track with any party. I just happen to agree with you there should be one voting day like there always was.
Frank
12:18PM FEB 18TH 2014
Yes, riled up over partisan, right wing talking point truthiness posing as journalism . . sad and . .

Pathetic . . . .
Michelle
11:02AM FEB 18TH 2014
"A Democrat who didn't want to give his name....."

That should tell you everything you need to know about the authenticity of this article. The next article will say "A Democrat who didn't want to give his name says the Republican trick websites that duped Democrats into donating to Republican candidates was a hoax" even though it was discovered by CNN.

Voter suppression, gerrymandering, and trick websites is the Republican strategy for winning elections. Since they are unwilling to make their platform more inclusive to attract new members especially women and minorities, they are a dying party. How else will they win elections unless they cheat?
Mark
11:02AM FEB 18TH 2014
Good article AND stand, Nancy. As a Registered Republican, white male, but cannot afford the little side trip to Rio, but I see no suppression of voting. Felons are NOT allowed to vote and I happen to agree with that law, which has been reviewed to death by various legislatures. Perhaps I'd be willing to have the felons, upon discharge, be required to have a clean record for two or three years, continuously and then have their voting rights restored. I believe that would be a fair compromise and society would benefit by having the felon as a regular, working citizen, with a clean record and contributing to the community.
Dean
9:55PM FEB 18TH 2014
OK Mark, so 2 or 3 years would be sufficient delay? Before I go further. Statement!Either everybodies civil rights are worth protecting, or nobodies are. Anything else is hypocrisy. My best friend is a 3X loser, with some serious convictions. He willingly admitts he was a terrible person. Still, he completed his last probation in 1992. Since then worked, paid taxes, donated thousands of hours helping visually and hearing impaired people, paid taxes. Is now disabled, and still helps an 82 yo visually impaired woman, daily. Has had 3 traffic tickets. Then. Crist denied him after 18 years clean, said he was 1 of those whom they did not restore basic civil rights to. Now, at 22 years clean he can not apply from Gov Scott, for a crime he committed in 1978. The right to vote is in the US CONSTITUTION, the only exception is for persons in a condition of servitute, slavery. What the Constitution does is to expand the right to vote. And, with the exception of the right to own a firearm, vote and serve on a jury all the rest of those rights remain valid. What kind of society debases a fellow citizen by saying " you are not a citizen, you are a slave, trash, with no right to vote. If you believe your civil rights are important and would deny someone else theirs, YOU ARE A HYPOCRIT! I challenge anybody to quote the US Constitution aand where it says a felon loses their rights.
Frank
12:13PM FEB 18TH 2014
Put that "clueless" check down next to Mark's name . . .

Pathetic . . . .
John Paul Jones
11:43AM FEB 19TH 2014
That's the pot calling the kettle black.
Frank
6:48PM FEB 19TH 2014
What are you smoking . . . oh, that's right, we've previously demonstrated you lie . . . often and frequently . . . . besides being in denial about voter suppression in Florida . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
ralph
10:25AM FEB 18TH 2014
For the record Nancy, I'm a registered Republican who happened to be on a business trip in Rio de Janeiro when I commented your article. Do you have a buzzer on your phone that rings when someone comments on your work? If so, please accept my sincerest apologies for disturbing your rest. Who knew?

Your argument is that someone needs to be restrained in a basement to prove that there is no voter suppression? Curious.

Here are just a few recent examples with credit to "Why The Voting Rights Act Still Matters: 16 Recent Examples of Voter Suppression and Discrimination
by CLAUDIA LISS-SCHULTZ on Jun 26, 2013."

"... 10. In 2011 Florida and Texas passed restrictions on non-profit voter registration drives. These non-profits, such as the League of Women Voters, have proved incredibly effective at helping eligible citizen register to vote, especially on college campuses and in areas with low voter turnout.

11. In 2011 Florida passed a law reducing the early voting period by nearly half and effectively limiting black, Latina and Democratic votes, as those groups constitute the majority of early voters. Ohio, West Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, and Wisconsin also reduced their early voting periods.

12. Partly as a result of reduced early voting, lines at the polls proved unbearable for some 201,000 Florida voters who left before casting their ballots in the 2012 Presidential Election.

Not sure where you reside, but I remember sadly watching coverage of fellow Republicans in Miami-Dade who had been standing in line for 7 hours learned that the state had already been called for Barack Obama.

Jury duty is a civil DUTY that requires that much time investment, voting is a right that should be efficient and guaranteed for any citizen.

Lastly, it sounds so reasonable to say "Citizens who want to vote, do. They have the impetus. They want to have a say in the democratic process. They find the time and the means to inform themselves, get to the polls and exercise their right as Americans." I agree with you in theory, but the facts or the experience of those who have been turned away don't support our position.

As a white, male, affluent American and whatever demographic you represent that I suspect is neither dark-skinned nor labor class, I close by reminding you: we aren't the target of the suppression. Our experience simply doesn't represent the problem. But we should fight the good fight for open, efficient, secure elections that encourage rather than discourage civic participation.
Joel
11:10AM FEB 18TH 2014
She's saying you have days and days when the polls are open for early voting. What are you squalking about? If all these citizens were standing in line on the LAST DAY of early voting, that tells me they were manipulated to do that. Take the politics out of it for a minute and think. Why would thousands of people wait until the last voting day of MANY to cry foul? Go back to Rio, Ralph.
Frank
9:08AM FEB 19TH 2014
Too bad your attempted rewrite of history falls flat on your face . . . I couldn't vote on election day as I was speaking out of state at a national science conference . . . . . so I early voted PRIOR to the last day, after having to give up twice before due to the incredibly long lines at the three different voting sites on previous days when I first attempted to vote . . . on the day I finally told myself I was just going to wait it out (~3 hours), little old ladies melting in the outside heat in their walkers were throwing up their hands and giving up after waiting in the hours long lines, brought about solely because of GOP "make it hard to vote" voting place restrictions . . . . that's known as "voter suppression" . . . . Senator Bennett had said it should be hard to vote, and well, since southern poll taxes are illegal, this appeared to the far right GOP to be the next best solution . . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Frank
9:37AM FEB 18TH 2014
Gee, you know you really shouldn't make extraordinary claims that can so easily be shown to be without merit in these days of the internet, when even court cases are searchable . . . . maybe you are "old school" and just don't realize such technology exists . . . . . sad . . . .

It's not like post-election studies indicate 200,000+ FLORIDA voters were discouraged by long lines due to GOP passed restrictions in the 2012 election, now is it . . . .

Nor that part of that same law was earlier thrown out by the courts . . .

Nor that a Florida Senator stated when promoting the bill that he wanted to make it HARD for voters to vote, then lied that Africans walked 200-300 miles to vote . . .

Nor that a pattern of court cases around the country found GOP activities attempting to discourage (i.e. suppress) the vote of minorities, the poor, and the young . . . .

No, you must be right, "voter suppression" must have a different meaning than a "strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from exercising their right to vote" . . . . just like poll taxes . . . . but then I'm sure you'll even discount direct quotes from the court cases as coming from partisan radical judges, every one, won't you . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Ed Vossen
9:23AM FEB 18TH 2014
Nancy, where do I go to see a dickey bird?
Michael
8:32AM FEB 18TH 2014
Manatee County Nancy Smith? Miami Dade County Nancy Smith?Objective evaluation of the impact of voting law changes made by the legislature Nancy Smith? Tueday voting only is terrible, if you proposed a solid week of voting so all work and religious schedules could be accomaodated maybe one could accept that you don't want to make voting harder form those who vote Democratic. Then the Rick Scott and restoration of felons rights as noted by Dean.
Bill Bledsoe
8:17AM FEB 18TH 2014
It is nothing more than the liberals' distraction from real issues.
Frank
5:02PM FEB 25TH 2014
Yeah, not like the GOP's continual searched for almost non-existent voter fraud, correct . . . .

Pathetic . . . .
Dean
7:10AM FEB 18TH 2014
I call bull$hit on ya Nancy. You want suppression, and proof of it? Fine, Florida has over 600,000 citizens who can not vote! Who you say? Exfelons! Gov Scott has gone the extra step to make sure few, if any of them get their rights back. His actions have gone beyond the normal republicant standard. How can we expect that a seperate class of citizens should exist? That the exfelons should be expected to live in our society, with no voice in that society? That Florida continues to use a Jim Crowe era law to block what most consider a US Constitutional Right. Voter suppression, how about human suppression? Now prove your indignation.
Nancy Smith
10:56AM FEB 18TH 2014
I seldom reply to comments, but you're absolutely right, Dean. I frankly forgot all about felons as I was writing this.

I don't believe felons who have served their time should be denied their rights as American citizens and I hope any such move to do so is challenged in the United States Supreme Court.

Nancy Smith
Dean
11:23AM FEB 18TH 2014
OK, a bit of shock and pleasant suprise. Thank You Ms Smith. You have earned a bit of my admiration for tackling the issue head on! Let me explain. Florida is 1 of a handfull of states, mostly southern, who do not restore an ExFelons' basic Civil Rights after they complete their sentence. About 6 million total, but Florida has the highest number that cannot particapate in this basic way. Lawmakers in Tallahassee have refused to deal fairly with that class of sub-citizen, and Gov. Scott actually made it more difficult for Exfelons to get their rights restored. If any US Citizen who is a legal resident of Florida can not vote, can not participate in the society they live in, it is voter suppression! Thank you again Ms Smith.
JOE KREPS
1:29PM FEB 18TH 2014
For everyone to vote on the same day is logistically challenging. Although I would like to see election day a national holiday where nobody works and everyone votes and celebrates the fact that voting is the cement that makes our democracy possible.

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