Again, Florida trying to restrict voter rights

March 13, 2014 

Florida is once again trying to constrain voter rights by restricting satellite locations where citizens can deposit absentee ballots.

The Legislature is considering a bill that would ban county elections supervisors from accepting completed absentee ballots at branch libraries and tax collector offices, in response to Pinellas County's defiance of a state order to quit that practice. That voter-friendly option is not only convenient but also saves money, according to several elections supervisors. Florida should allow the easiest balloting possible, not the toughest.

The state has a checkered history on restricting elections, most recently with Gov. Rick Scott's decision to shut down the University of Florida's student union as an early voting site. According to the Scott administration, the building doesn't qualify as a government-owned community center or convention center under a new law.

This year, the governor's office is once again trying to cleanse the registration rolls of what is perceived as ineligible voters -- just like in 2012 when the purge lists comprised mostly Hispanics and blacks. That flawed effort two years ago wasted state money on an effort to initially rid the rolls of 182,000 registered voters that then dropped to 2,600 before finally falling to about 200. The list was woefully inaccurate.

Then, in 2011, the Legislature cut early voting days from 14 days to eight days, only to restore those hours due to a federal appeals court ruling the next year.

This follows the controversy here in Manatee County where the number of polling places got slashed by some 30 percent this year. The public outcry about the inconvenience to minority and poor voters hit the roof.

With 30 to 99 polling places closing in Manatee, the director of Common Clause Florida sounded the alarm. The bipartisan and good government organization screamed about Florida's latest voter suppression initiative.

This state should never consider laws that restrict voter rights. That goes against basic democratic rights.

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