Tag Archives: voting

Voter suppression and unintended consequences

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern, one of the best reporters covering legal and LGBT questions, takes a closer look at the State with the Prettiest Name’s ongoing voter suppression project. Despite the passage with overwhelming support of Amendment 4 in 2018, my state legislature, readers may recall, passed a bill last May with devastating caveats: you can vote so long as you pay all fees.

I noted last November how these developments have unfolded in Miami-Dade County. Here we are:

There is little doubt that GOP legislators opposed the amendment because they feared it would disproportionately enfranchise Democrats. But their bill has led to a bizarre system in which Democratic counties are reenfranchising their voters while Republican-majority counties are not. Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Hillsborough all overwhelmingly supported Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in 2016. They are Democratic strongholds in a state with notoriously close elections. In 2016, Trump beat Clinton by about 113,000 votes. Meanwhile, Miami-Dade hopes to grant about 150,000 former felons the right to vote. The reenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in primarily Democratic counties may very well swing the 2020 election.

Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis barely won election to the Senate and governorship, respectively. Nibbling at vote totals like re-enfranchising would do would seriously impair Donald Trump’s reelection in the most erratic of swing states. The stupidity of the state legislature is clear: god knows how many white GOP-leaning voters it has kept disenfranchised! As awful as this looks for the red counties of Florida, these margins might be enough to tilt the state blue in 2020, and these dumbfuck GOP legislators are just dumbfuck enough not to realize what they may have done.

‘Don’t be afraid. We want people to come forward’

I don’t often report good political news. I found some: while an ACLU-filed lawsuit contesting the legality of the Florida legislature’s quasi-poll tax awaits its day in court next April, more than twenty former felons had their voting rights restored before a Miami-Dade County special committee. To wit:

…Miami-Dade has become the first county in the state to mandate that when people finish serving out their prison time, they are not kept from voting because of financial burdens on the outside. More than $278 million in outstanding court fines from felony cases exist in Miami-Dade since 2000, according to Miami Herald News partner WLRN News.

While former felons in Miami-Dade will still be on the hook for the court costs, this will not restrict them from registering to vote. They can also petition to have their fines converted to community service.

Not everyone is eligible — anyone convicted outside of the state or in federal court is not.

Still, for the hundreds of thousands of Miami-Dade residents who can register to vote, the State Attorney’s Office encourages them to reach out.

“Don’t be afraid,” Fernandez Rundle said. “We want people to come forward.”

Miami-Dade alone counts one hundred fifty-thousand felons who can seek redress. To be clear, these citizens must still pay their fines, but the failure to do will not rescind their right to vote — the only fair solution, one, of course, ignored by the legislature.

The effort to suppress student voting

College students voted in 2018. I know this because Florida International University allowed for a polling station in one of its buildings. But we can’t have students voting because they tend to skew Democratic.

The headline example is in New Hampshire. There, a Republican-backed law took effect this fall requiring newly registered voters who drive to establish “domicile” in the state by securing New Hampshire driver’s licenses and auto registrations, which can cost hundreds of dollars annually.

The dots are not hard to connect: According to the Tufts study, six in 10 New Hampshire college students come from outside the state, a rate among the nation’s highest. As early as 2011, the state’s Republican House speaker at the time, William O’Brien, promised to clamp down on unrestricted voting by students, calling them “kids voting liberal, voting their feelings, with no life experience.”

Florida’s Republican secretary of state outlawed early-voting sites at state universities in 2014, only to see 60,000 voters cast on-campus ballots in 2018 after a federal court overturned the ban. This year, the State Legislature effectively reinstated it, slipping a clause into a new elections law that requires all early-voting sites to offer “sufficient non-permitted parking” — an amenity in short supply on densely packed campuses.

North Carolina Republicans enacted a voter ID law last year that recognized student identification cards as valid — but its requirements proved so cumbersome that major state universities were unable to comply. A later revision relaxed the rules, but much confusion remains, and fewer than half the state’s 180-plus accredited schools have sought to certify their IDs for voting.

Wisconsin Republicans also have imposed tough restrictions on using student IDs for voting purposes. The state requires poll workers to check signatures only on student IDs, although some schools issuing modern IDs that serve as debit cards and dorm room keys have removed signatures, which they consider a security risk.

The law also requires that IDs used for voting expire within two years, while most college ID cards have four-year expiration dates. And even students with acceptable IDs must show proof of enrollment before being allowed to vote.

The Republican Party has made suppression of the franchise an essential part of its operations for close to forty years. It’s at the state level where the malfeasance happens, but they take their cues from a GOP Senate and president. Hence, a President Jeb! or President Plankton would’ve endorsed these practices. The truest line said on the record in today’s NYT story about suburban voters by a Kent County Trump supporter: “Just take out his name and look what he’s done for our community. Focus on his policies.”

‘There can be ballots not cast in a legitimate manner by legitimate people’

This is normal in Ohio:

She went online and discovered that her name had also been flagged as an inactive voter. The state was in the process of removing her from its voter rolls.

“I voted three times last year,” said Ms. Miller. “I don’t think we have any idea how many other individuals this has happened to.”

Ohio, where the Democratic presidential candidates are set to debate Tuesday, is both a battleground state and the site of some of the country’s strictest voting laws, from voter ID requirements to a “use-it-or-lose-it” provision that lets officials drop voters seen as inactive.

The combination has led voting rights advocates to contend that parts of the state are regularly disenfranchised, largely in purges aimed at those who have died or moved away, but which also hit real voters who don’t learn they can’t vote until Election Day. Election officials in other battlegrounds such as Florida, North Carolina, Georgia and Texas regularly purge their voter lists as well.

This year, a group of elected officials in the state, mostly all moderate Republicans, tried to answer the concerns with an experiment of their own: Rather than purge the voter rolls behind closed doors as had been done in the past, the government released the full list of those to be removed this summer, and gave the list to advocacy groups. The groups said they found the list was riddled with errors.

But the other Republicans have joined these putative moderates in putting their errors for Ohioans to see, right?

“There can be ballots not cast in a legitimate manner by legitimate people,” said Senator William P. Coley II, a Republican who has pushed for tightening the voting laws. “The number of elections that are decided by one vote or a few votes — it doesn’t take much to throw an election.”

Having state officials crowdsource voter data must surely be what government-is-the-problem types in both parties mean by a practical solution. So if the League of Women Voters found discrepancies between its findings and state tabulations, what happened next? Who or what resolves the conflict? The GOP hopes to exhaust protesters.

‘He had me with the idea that we are made to be free, and then he lost me’

Cue Adam Serwer: the cruelty is the point. In a story that deserves a Netflix series, the estranged daughter of Thomas B. Hofeller sifted through her dead parent’s USBs and external hard drives and found a curious document: a study concluding that a citizenship question on the 2020 census would make gerrymandered districts ever more impregnable. He also wrote the DOJ letter stressing that the question would — get this — enforce the Voting Rights Act. Continue reading

The state with the prettiest name already thwarting felony restoration amendment

When Floridians by a sixty-five percent margin voted on an amendment in November automatically restoring voting rights to hundreds of thousands of former felons, I hope they foresaw the catastrophe. No way would the Florida GOP allow almost a million former felons, most of whom are people of color, back on the voting rolls without a fight. The adverb in my first sentence matters; the amendment was, unusually, crystalline in word and intent, mandating an automatic restoration.

To Governor-elect Ron DeSantis and his colleagues, however, “automatic” is a point of view. At an elections conference a couple weeks ago, the state said it has, according to the Tampa Bay Times, “stopped transmitting documents counties use to remove convicted felons from the rolls.” Legislators need more time. Indeed, DeSantis has already said he wants the legislature to write “implementing rules,” which means a two-month delay until the session opens in March. Election supervisors are fuming:

All this talk about the legislature is baffling to elections supervisors and civil rights groups, who say the amendment was designed to be self-executing. The state Supreme Court unanimously approved the amendment’s language as clear and specific, saying voters could understand that the point was to “automatically” restore the affected population’s voting rights.

“I don’t think you need the legislature,” Manatee County election supervisor Mike Bennett told TPM.

A self-described “strong Republican” who tried to enact felon rights restoration during his 12 years in the state Senate, Bennett called himself an “advocate” for Amendment 4. As Bennett noted, the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee won’t have its first meeting until March, and any proposed measures will then have to pass the House, the Senate, and be approved by DeSantis.

“That process will take more time whereas if the secretary of state’s office handled it and came up with the definitions and clarifications, they could do it much faster,” he said.

Without uniformity and guidance, the possibility exists that men and women who show up to vote will, ye gods, fall into the GOP trap of committing voter fraud:

“On January 8 people are going to be coming to my office trying to register to vote,” Bennett said. “And I want them to be able to register to vote but I don’t want them to commit another crime accidentally.”

For the percentage of my readers who believe in the new federalism, the results look inevitable: counties with Democratic mayors will move quickly to answer the will of voters, while counties with Republican ones will stop short of outright defiance. Advocates of the new Confederacy will always find support.