Florida GOP leaders admit crafting law to suppress college vote

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, December 18, 2012 11:34 EDT
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A voter casts a ballot. Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.
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The chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party told a newspaper this week that he and another prominent Florida Republican pushed for changes to the state’s provisional balloting system in order to suppress young and poor voters, many of whom are students or rent their residence.

The Miami Herald found that the law, sponsored by State Rep. Dennis Baxley (R) and supported by Alachua County GOP chairman Stafford Jones, eliminated the ability of poll workers to quickly check a statewide database of voters registered in counties other than where they’re casting a ballot.

The end result was a 25 percent spike in the use of provisional ballots, leading to more work for elections staff and much longer lines — all of which was by design, Jones told the Herald.

“The liberals do a good job of bringing in college kids to vote on local issues,” Jones reportedly said. “The kids vote on raising our taxes, but don’t have to live here to pay the consequences.”

As it happened, those most adversely affected by the registration requirements were students and people who rent instead of own property, all of whom move more often than middle class and wealthy individuals.

Jones and Baxley reportedly said were bitter over the party’s loss in Tampa’s 2010 mayoral election, which was decided by just 42 votes. There’s no proof that the 2010 Tampa mayoral election was stolen, and Jones reportedly cited blogs posts about people moving to cast their ballots as the inspiration for the change in state law.

Still, Baxley told the Herald that he believes Democrats somehow managed to whisk the office away from Republicans illegally. “It wasn’t right for people to move in and steal an election like that,” he said.

Baxley, however, isn’t exactly known for supporting evidence-based policies. In the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre in Connecticut, he said Monday that teachers and principals should be allowed to carry firearms in schools — a policy the Florida Education Association said “doesn’t make much sense to us.”

The changes to Florida’s voting laws ahead of the 2012 presidential election were just one front in a national campaign by Republicans who claimed to be concerned about supposedly rampant “voter fraud.” Studies show, however, that the type of in-person voter fraud these laws would guard against is incredibly rare, and there’s no evidence to support the conclusion that any U.S. election has been swayed by such tactics.

Photo: Shutterstock.com, all rights reserved.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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