There Is No Such Thing as Voter Suppression in Florida
Around the State
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423.