Florida Republicans concoct a new scheme to make it harder for students to vote
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) (Photo: Screen capture)

Florida Republicans do not want to make voting easy for college students — a demographic that leans heavily Democratic.

Former GOP Secretary of State Ken Detzner, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, took that to the extreme in 2014, with an order banning county election officials from setting up any early voting sites on college campuses. Last year, following a lawsuit by the League of Women Voters, federal District Judge Mark Walker struck down that order as an unconstitutional burden on students' voting rights. As a result, some 60,000 people were able to vote early on 11 college campuses in Florida in 2018.

But the GOP has not given up. According to the Tampa Bay Times, a new elections bill under consideration by the legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis, SB 7066, would effectively accomplish the same thing, making it impossible to set up early voting sites on most college campuses.

At issue, activists say, is the bill's requirement that any early voting site "must provide sufficient nonpermitted parking to accommodate the anticipated amount of voters." Most colleges in Florida do not offer free parking, let alone enough free parking to accommodate every voter. And the limitation doesn't even make sense for sites on college campuses, which are often either walkable or in the heart of cities with public transportation.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit have filed an emergency motion with Judge Walker, saying that the bill "is aimed with laser-like precision at undoing this court's standing preliminary injunction order, and again imposing an elections regime in which supervisors of election are effectively prohibited from offering early voting on Florida's college and university campuses."

This is not the first time the Florida GOP has moved to overrule expansions of voting rights. After the bipartisan passage of Amendment 4, a voter referendum restoring rights to most ex-convicts, the legislature passed, and DeSantis signed, a bill requiring people pay back all court fines and restitution to be re-enfranchised, a de facto poll tax that prevents the amendment from applying to hundreds of thousands of people.