Florida GOP Squeezes
BY JOY-ANN REID
Progressive America Rising via The Miami Herald
May 1, 2011 - Last week, we learned that even achieving the highest level of academic and political success — up to and including being elected president of the United States — is not enough to exempt an African American from having it demanded of him, by even the Washington press corps, that he prove the circumstances of his birth to a white, B-list television personality.
The racial enmity — dare I say envy — of people like Donald Trump, and the parade of racists and rejectionists rallying behind the birther banner will soon lose media interest.
But there are forms of rejectionism that in a way are more pernicious, in that they target not President Obama, but rather the people who voted for him, and who Republicans fear will do so again.
In Florida, the GOP-dominated legislature will soon pass laws squeezing the voting methods favored by minorities, college students and the working class.
Between them, the House and Senate bills would cut early voting from two weeks to one; force people who need to update their name or address on Election Day (say, due to marriage or divorce or a move by a military family) to vote on provisional ballots; and impose onerous restrictions on groups registering people to vote.
In the most extreme case, Republicans hope to pack the Supreme Court to undermine the anti-gerrymandering Fair Districts Amendments voted through by a public who actually thought the authoritarians in Tallahassee would let a little thing like the Constitution come between them and their stranglehold on power.
And in an especially creative flourish, Rick Scott and his Cabinet have revived the spirit of Jim Crow by re-imposing restrictions on voting rights restoration that had been brought into the 21st Century by former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Florida’s two-week early voting period was among the reforms meant to prevent embarrassments like the 2000 election. It was a hard-won victory for working people who sometimes can’t get to the polls if they work odd hours, or run out of time to resolve a problem at the polls.
Arguably, it also contributed to Obama’s Florida win in 2008, as black churches and college students took full advantage of the extra time (and the history-making opportunity).
Karen Andre, who ran the Liberty City/Little Haiti office for the Obama campaign, called the impact of early voting in those neighborhoods “amazing.”
“It was raining constantly during early voting and people would not leave the polls,” she said.
Held harmless by the “reformers” will be absentee voting, which happens to be the method used most effectively by Republicans.
The 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits the erection of race-based barriers to voting.
Yet, for all the showbiz of ushering a pair of black tea partiers, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Allen West of Florida, into Congress in 2010, Republicans have had no luck convincing African Americans to choose the party of birtherism, Andrew Breitbart, and the running innuendo that black and Hispanic Ivy Leaguers stole the rightful slots of “real Americans.”
In Florida, putting Jennifer Carroll on the gubernatorial ticket with Rick Scott was good for a whole 3 percent of the black vote in 2010.
Likewise, Hispanics, apparently failing to see the welcome in laws requiring police officers to demand the papers of anyone who “looks or sounds” illegal — with “illegal” being shorthand for “Spanish-speaking” — continue to vote more than two to one Democratic, even when conservative-leaning Cuban-Americans are factored in.
Ditto the idealistic young, single women, who stubbornly insist on controlling their own reproduction, or union members, who fail to appreciate the benevolence of corporations or the miracle of outsourcing.
As Monica Russo, who heads the SEIU Healthcare Union in Miami put it: “The right-wing powers-that-be understand that we outnumber them.”
Miami-Dade NAACP President Bishop Victor Curry, pastor of one of the largest predominantly African-American churches in South Florida, puts it more bluntly.
“The extreme right wing of the Republican Party has always fought voters’ rights,” Curry said. “They don’t want full participation because they fear that if there is full participation, the majority of people in this country will not vote for them. So they try to stifle. They try to block.”
Curry, Russo and Andre agree on the way to fight back.
“I hope people decide that although [Republicans] have the power to reduce early voting to a week that people take full advantage of that week,” Curry said.
Or as the guy who occupies the post that Donald Trump never will once said: “Yes we can.”
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