The historical long lines at polling stations all over Florida were not by accident.
It was intentional.
Current and former Florida GOP leaders told the Palm Beach Post on November 25 that the new voting law, HB 1355, was designed to inhibit and discourage Democratic voters. Former Republican Party of Florida chairman Jim Greer, former Gov. Charlie Crist and two GOP consultants admitted to the Post that the law that was meant to fight voter fraud and save money, was just a cover up to subterfuge for the laws real purpose: To ensure a GOP victory.
Greer told the Post that starting in 2009; he attended various meetings at which party staffers and consultants tried to push for a reduction in early voting hours and days. Greer told the Post:
The Republican Party, the strategist, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates. It’s done for one reason and one reason only…’We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.’ They never came in to see me and tell me we had a voter fraud issue. It’s was all a marketing ploy.
Brian Burgess, the current Florida GOP spokesman, told the Post that Greer is under an indictment, accused of stealing over $200,000 form the part through bogus campaign fundraising operations. Burgess told the Post:
Jim Greer has been accused of criminal acts against this organization and anything he says has to be considered in that light.
Greer is suing the GOP, claiming that the party knew about his dealings and voiced no objection. But Greer is not the only one expressing concern about the voting law. His allegations are also backed by former governor Crist and two GOP campaign consultants.
Wayne Bertsch, who handles legislative and Palm Beach County races for the GOP, told the Post that he knew the main goal of the voting law was to suppress Democratic voters. He told the Post:
In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn’t have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn’t the impact that they had this election cycle.
He was referring to the elections earlier this month, when the Democrats picked up seven Florida legislative seats despite the restrictions imposed by the voting law. Another GOP consultant, who wanted to keep his name hidden in fear of retribution, confirmed Bertsch statements that the Florida GOP was determined to beat back the Democrats advantage in early voting.
The law was born in 2008, when Democrats, especially African-Americans, showed up to the polls in unprecedented numbers to give president Obama a victory in Florida, with many Democratic voters voting early. Three years later, the Republicans, who now had super majorities in both the state House and Senate, passed HB 1355, which slashed early voting in half, from 14 days to just eight. The law also greatly reduced the days that voter groups could register voters, which hindered groups such as the League of Women Voters. The League and other voting activist groups took the new law to court and a federal judge tossed out the registration part of the law, but keep the cut in early voting intact.
Former governor Charlie Crist told the Post that party leaders approached him about finding a was to cut early voting. Crist, who is no longer with the Republican Party, turned the idea of slashing early voting down, citing that the law specifically targeted black voters. He told the Post:
It looked like that was what was being suggested. And I didn’t want them to go there at all.
Greer told the Post about inhibiting minority voters:
The sad thing about that is yes, there is prejudice and racism in the party but real prevailing thought is that they don’t think minorities will ever vote Republican. It’s not really a broad based racist issue. It’s simply that the Republican Party gave up a long time ago ever believing that anything they did would get minorities to vote for them.
The GOP consultant, who refused to be named, backed up Greer’s statement about black voters. He told the Post:
I know that the cutting out of the Sunday before Election Day was one of their targets only because that’s a big day when the black churches organize themselves.
Burgess discounted Crist statements. He told the Post:
Charlie Crist speaks out of both sides of his mouth.
But early voting was not the GOP’s only concern. Another problem was the growing Latino population. The GOP pushed to remove Florida Supreme Court judges and purge the voting rolls of people who might not be U.S citizens. Under current Gov. Rick Scott, the Division of Elections issued a purge list of non-citizen voters, which according to the Post were criticized by several county election supervisors for being filled with errors. The voter purge was challenged several times in court, and almost all of the state’s election supervisors killed the voter purge effort months before the presidential election.
HB 1355 proved to be futile in the November elections, as seven Democrats were voted to serve in Tallahassee and three Democrats were sent to Washington, D.C. And Barack Obama, after a lengthy count process, won the state over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.