Florida’s Democratic delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives today requested that the United States Commission on Civil Rights convene a hearing to investigate charges that the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) willfully and knowingly designed and passed a law intended to prevent countless thousands of Floridians from exercising their constitutional right to vote in the 2012 elections.
Representatives Alcee Hastings, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Ted Deutch, Frederica Wilson and Debbie Wasserman Schultz all signed the official hearing request letter sent to Martin Castro, Commission Chairman, and they got right to the point in the first sentence:
“We write to request that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights hold a hearing regarding HB 1355, which was signed into law by Florida Governor Rick Scott on May 19th, 2011.“
The letter comes on the heels of (and directly references) the Palm Beach Post’s bombshell of a story that broke this past weekend; a story that laid its cards on the table right away, making it easier than ever to see how the RPOF stacked the deck against the state’s Democratic voters in 2012:
“A new Florida law that contributed to long voter lines and caused some to abandon voting altogether was intentionally designed by Florida GOP staff and consultants to inhibit Democratic voters, former GOP officials and current GOP consultants have told The Palm Beach Post.“
The investigative report is built on interviews with former RPOF top dogs from 2007-2009, Party Chairman Jim Greer and Governor Charlie Crist, and with leading GOP political consultants who confirmed that after Barack Obama’s Florida win in 2008, a top party priority became the crafting of voter suppression legislation – and a cover story to go with it.
To nobody’s surprise in the past day or two since the story broke, the RPOF and its many supporters and apologists have focused almost entirely on discrediting its star sources. Greer, still facing charges of grand theft, money laundering and fraud stemming from his stint as party chair, is being labeled a vengeance-driven liar. And Crist, famously driven out of the party when Marco Rubio came along, is being labeled pretty much the same way, if in somewhat gentler terms.
But the bottom line here is that there’s plenty of corroboration in the story, including a deposition by the lawyer who following meetings with RPOF leaders and consultants was tasked with writing HB 1355 in early 2011; enabling the party to use its (then) super-majority to force the onerous law through the Spring legislative session, slide it across Governor Scott’s desk, and have it “on the books” and ready to suppress Democratic votes in Election 2012.
It was truly painful for voting rights activists, the Florida Democratic Party, the American Civil Liberties Union and countless other organizations and individuals to watch as a patently unconstitutional, plain-as-day voter suppression strategy wound its way into law. Hearing the governor and RPOF leadership repeatedly claiming to the media and general public that the law was actually all about solving (the virtually non-existent) problem of voter fraud was enough to make your skin crawl and the eyes roll back in your head.
But impressively enough, the law that had the most impact in 2012 turned out to be The Law Of Unintended Consequences. For what the RPOF voter suppression law ended up doing with it’s boldly artless tomfoolery was helping drive Democratic voter turnout through the roof. Florida Democrats – and many Independents, even some moderate Republicans – not only gave our fine president a well-deserved win; they also broke up the RPOF legislative super-majority, picking up seven seats. And, picked up four congressional seats to boot.
How about that?!?
And now, just like after the 2000 electoral disaster in Florida, it’s time to get the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in here to unravel the whole ugly conspiracy, to help shine the light on all the guilty parties so they can be held fully accountable, and to put measures in place to prevent this kind of scam from ever again being pulled on the voters and citizens of the Sunshine State.
Guess maybe I’ll have to write a letter to Santa on that last one…