Miami Herald: Republican-Sponsored Elections Bill “Reeks of Partisanship”

By Michael McDunnah April 14, 2011

Today in Florida, the House State Affairs Committee is taking up HB 1355, an omnibus election administration bill drafted by Republican House Speaker Dean Cannon and introduced by Rep. Dennis Baxley. This morning the Miami Herald editorializes that “the 128-page bill would undo some of the sensible reforms imposed after the 2000 election debacle and adds a plethora of requirements that would tie the hands of independently elected elections supervisors, disenfranchise voters, dissuade volunteers from engaging in voter registration and discourage many voters’ participation on Election Day.”

Among the bill’s “onerous requirements,” it would force anyone who has moved recently to vote a provisional ballot—a requirement that could disenfranchise thousands of college students. (In 2008, the Herald explains, half of Florida’s provisional ballots were thrown out.) As the Herald explains:

This bill reeks of partisanship. Why?

One theory: Mr. Cannon wants to limit students’ participation in the voting process — as volunteers and as voters. That may be because his district includes the University of Central Florida, and College Democrats at UCF registered almost 11,000 voters in 2008 when Barack Obama won Florida.

As the ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Jeff Clemens, noted, “The language in this elections bill seems to place a presumption of guilt on the voters.”

Indeed, at a time when technology has made voting easier and more transparent, when databases have been established for easy and exact access to voters’ information to combat fraud, this bill sets up obstacles reminiscent of Jim Crow.