- Faith & Family
With less than two months before Florida’s primaries and an even more crucial presidential election approaching in November, the State of Florida finds itself in a quagmire. Governor Rick Scott seems
bent on identifying and purging ineligible voters from the state’s rolls. But election officials throughout the state say based on a recent letter from the U.S. Justice Department demanding a halt to the search for non-citizen voters, they will stop any further purges. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and his Department say the process appears to be in violation of federal law.
“Of all our freedoms, none are more important that the right to vote,” Holder said during a recently-televised CSPAN forum with members of the Congressional Black Caucus [CBC] and the Congress of National Black Churches [CNBC]. “Voting is the lifeblood of our democracy. However, despite our country’s history to extend that right to women, Blacks and youth, others are trying to deny those rights.”
Holder pointed out that over two dozen states since the 2008 presidential election have changed their voting laws — actions that are now under investigation by the Justice Department.
Will GOP succeed in turning back the clock?
Representative Cedric Richmond [D-LA] said voting is a person’s only “voice in government and validates people as American citizens.”
“We must rally the troops and make sure all Blacks vote — both in their state primary elections and in the fall’s presidential election,” he said. “There is a right-wing movement underfoot to take us back to 1900 — and so far it’s working.”
Based on a report from the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, voting law changes in 2012 have impacted an estimated 5 million voters. States like Florida have changed their laws so that voters must present a valid ID in order to vote while at the same time facing a shortened early voter period. Most notable among the changes is the elimination of voting the Sunday before the elections — a day known in Black communities as “Souls to the Polls Day.” Before the change in Florida’s laws, churches took busloads of their members, particularly senior citizens, to vote on that Sunday.
“I find it ironic that after the voting debacle in 2000, Florida supposedly fixed all of its problems and was then cited as a model state for the rest of the nation,” said State
Representative Cynthia Stafford. “Now we have ‘serious’ problems with our voting rolls. What took us so long to realize that and why is it being done now?”
“The removal or purging of voters from the rolls is just another effort of the Republican Party to suppress the vote,” said FL State Senator Oscar Braynon. “It’s just simple mathematics — reduce the turnout that we saw in 2008 and they can ensure a victory. The voter reform bill that passed last year wasn’t something new. The Republicans have been trying to push that through for years. This is not about attempts to limit voter fraud. It’s about defeating the Democrats and President Barack Obama. Any other reasons cited are nothing but hogwash. I may be the youngest state senator but I wasn’t born yesterday.”
FL Senator Bill Nelson echoed Braynon’s remarks.
“It was a long time ago, but something Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said about voting rights seems appropriate again,” Nelson said. “King said ‘the denial of this sacred right is a tragic betrayal of the highest mandates of our democratic traditions. It is democracy turned upside down.’”
By D. Kevin McNeir