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Opinion: Florida's Voter Purge Attempts To Stifle Democrats and Minorities

The Buck Starts Here

In 2000, at the direction of a Republican Governor, Florida state officials quietly engaged in a campaign to disenfranchise voters. Conveniently, the purge of "felons" removed thousands of legitimate voters from county rolls – the vast majority of them Democrats.

The election day discovery by thousands of legitimate voters in Florida that they were deemed ineligible to vote was one of the biggest problems across the state. That and numerous other mistakes led to a chaotic and embarrassing Presidential recount.

After the lessons of that election you would hope that our public servants would be fixing voting problems, not creating new ones. Not so.

Undeterred by Florida's many embarrassing electoral failures, Florida Governor Rick Scott has launched a campaign of his own to remove voters from the state's rolls. Unlike the 2000 purge, this one is being done very much in the public light.

That scrutiny is causing problems for Rick Scott's solution in search of a problem. Florida's independent election supervisors aren't having it this time. Many of these county officials have questioned the accuracy of the state's effort after finding the overwhelming majority of targets are qualified voters.

Neither is the United States Justice Department. They have told Florida to stop the purge and have gone to court to stop Florida's election officials from violating federal election law.

Not surprisingly, the targets to be purged are overwhelmingly minorities and overwhelmingly Democrats.

Mr. Scott's behavior is part of a troubling trend among Republican governors: creating greater barriers to voting that disenfranchise young voters, minorities, seniors and women. For example, under some recently passed voter ID Laws a recently married or divorced woman would not have an accurate drivers’ license because of legal delays in changing names and would, therefore, be barred from voting.

Voter fraud is virtually non-existent but barriers to voting already keep legitimate voters from the polls every election day. Yet state after state, controlled by Republican Governors, is focused on intentionally making the problem worse, throwing up yet more barriers in the name of combating the non-existent voter fraud. The U.S. Justice Department's enforcement of federal laws protecting voting rights is the only chance hundreds of thousands of Americans have to vote in this election.

The behavior of these Governors is eerily reminiscent of the ugly unity of southern governors fighting to keep Jim Crow laws in place, opposing civil rights and voting rights.

Elected officials would do well to remember that it is the job of the voters to pick their representatives, it is not the job of elected officials to pick who gets to vote.

About Bill Buck

Bill Buck is a Democratic strategist, President of the Buck Communications Group, a media relations and new media strategies consulting business based in Washington, DC, and Managing Director of the online ad firm Influence DSP. He has over twenty years of international and national communications experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CBS Local.


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