A bill in the Florida House of Representatives to "clean up" voting is the latest sad chapter in the state's handbook of voter suppression, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
The legislation, sponsored by Republican Rep. Dennis Baxley, would cut Florida’s early-voting period from two weeks to one, prevent anyone who has moved or changed a name from updating their information at the polls on Election Day and receiving a ballot, and place restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations, among other changes.
"Legislators have said this bill will ‘narrow the widows and tighten the controls’ of Florida’s elections," Danielle Prendergast, ACLU of Florida's Director of Public Policy, said. "While that’s accurate, it’s also sad that this Legislature views democracy as something that needs to be narrowed and controlled."
Baxley has dismissed criticism of the bill, saying HB 1355 is meant to protect against voter fraud. A Florida House committee approved the bill in a 12 to 6 party-line vote.
"It’s crystal clear that the target is not just voting but creating barriers and obstacles to voting only for certain people," Prendergast continued. "In this proposal, Florida’s students, racial minorities and veterans will be the victims of this unneeded tinkering."
"Any system that denies people the right to fill out a normal ballot is a recipe for disenfranchisement. And in the context of Florida’s tradition of stacking the election deck to favor candidates or enforce offensive Jim Crow principles, this effort is just the latest sad chapter in the Florida Handbook of Voter Suppression.
"The right to vote and free and fair access to the ballot box is the bedrock on with all our freedoms rest and this Legislature continues to chip away at the bedrock piece by piece."
A spokesman for Florida Secretary of State Kurt Browning told the The St. Petersburg Times that in 2010, the agency received no complaints concerning voters changing their name, address or political party affiliation at a polling place.