TAMPA, Florida — Hundreds of citizens rallied nearby the Republican National Convention Tuesday, protesting the spread of voter suppression laws across the country over the past two years.
Florida has been the epicenter of voter suppression since 2011. Last year, state Republicans passed a law slashing early voting in the Sunshine State, including cutting out the last Sunday before the election, a day that African American churches utilized to drive their congregations to the polls. The law also put significant new restrictions on voter registration groups, forcing the League of Women Voters to shut down their operations in the state. (This portion of the law has since been blocked by a federal judge.) This year, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) attempted a failed voter purge that would have disproportionately targeted Latino and Democratic voters, hindering their lawful right to vote.
Voters like Sara Ailker were fed up. She held a sign at the rally that read, “Rick Scott, hands off my vote!!” These laws are personal for Ailker, who told ThinkProgress about her friend in Georgia whose photo ID expired and might soon lose her right to vote. “It’s a catch-22 trying to get her a voter ID,” said Ailker.
Photos from the rally:
One speaker at the event noted that Hillsborough County is number one in the nation in trying juvenile offenders as adults. Many received felony convictions, which strips them of their right to vote in Florida. “That’s voter suppression,” the speaker cried, pointing to the 1.5 million residents who cannot vote in the state because of a past felony conviction.
As detailed by the Center for American Progress and others, conservatives have proposed nearly 200 voter suppression bills across the country since 2011, successfully enacting over two dozen of them. They have including laws requiring photo ID to vote, cuts to early voting, and restrictions on voter registration groups. The Brennan Center estimates that more than 5 million people could be disenfranchised because of these new laws.