A little over a decade ago, George W. Bush with help from the Supreme Court became the 43rd President of the United States. He won by winning the hotly contested swing state of Florida, a state he won by a mere 537 votes.
Back in the year 2000, over 12 000 eligible voters were purged from the voting rolls as they were wrongly identified as being convicted felons. 41% of those purged were African American even though they represent only 11% of the population. It just so happens that African Americans in Florida that did vote favoured Bush’s opponent Al Gore by more than 80%.
Fast-forward twelve years and we are now seeing not a replay, but a more hardened stance against the right to vote in Florida. Despite warnings from the Department of Justice, Florida Governor Rick Scott has vowed to continue the purge of up to 182 000 eligible voters.
Scott justifies the purge as necessary in order to stop tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from voting this coming November. However, the purge list is ripe with errors and inaccuracies and targets Latinos and other minorities disproportionately.
In early May, the State sent out 2600 letters to Florida residents informing them that they are not a United States citizen, but are registered to vote. If recipients of these letters do not reply within thirty days and confirm their U.S. citizenship, they will be dropped from the voter rolls.
Although the number could be much higher, Think Progress noted that “an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as ‘non-citizens’ in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens.” If the purge list is off by 20%, that means that a minimum of 35 000 legal voters will be turned away in November.
The recipients of one of these letters just happened to be a 91 year old World War II vet who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Just imagine fighting for your country in the bloodiest of wars, then being told years later that you’re not a citizen.
Governor Rick Scott started this latest round of voter suppression last year by banning ex-convicts from voting (a rule that had been rescinded in 2008) and by shortening the early vote period. However, Scott has not been acting alone; he has been financed by the Koch brothers and ALEC, who until recently implemented voter suppression laws across the country.
Florida is just one of a dozen states that have approved new obstacles to voting in the past year:
• Kansas and Alabama now require voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering.
• Maine repealed Election Day voter registration.
• Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida cut short their early voting periods.
• Iowa and Florida barred all ex-felons from the polls.
• Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots (all six of these states are Republican controlled).
When Bush was President, he spent over $75 000 000 to investigate voter fraud in the United States. In the end, they established that fraud was virtually non-existent. They found the only two types of fraud taking place were by ex-felons who voted not knowing they were ineligible to vote in their State. The other was by people like Mitt Romney who claim residency in one state, but actually live in another.
Immigrants are just a smokescreen that Florida Republicans are using to increase their chances in the general election. The fact is, illegal immigrants don’t vote, they don’t even register. No illegal alien is stupid enough to put their name on a government document; the risk of getting caught and later deported is simply too high.
Every state that has passed an ALEC model anti-voting bill has done so with the intention of repeating the fiasco of the 2000 election. Of course, this time around when the votes have been counted, Republicans won’t need to rely on the Supreme Court.
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