Earlier this year, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed a voter suppression law that, among other things, cuts the number of early voting days nearly in half and imposes crippling administrative burdens on voter registration drives. The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee is now asking DOJ to suspend the law because it violates the federal Voting Rights Act, which strikes down state laws that have a greater impact on minority voters than on others:
There is no doubt that the effect of the new law will be to intimidate volunteers from participating in voter registration efforts . . . . [M]inority voters are more than twice as likely to register in these drives than white Americans. Voter registration drives go a long way toward decreasing the registration rate gap between eligible minority and white voters. Thus, the chilling effect [Florida’s law] will have on voter registration efforts will result in fewer minority voters at the polls. . . .
Florida saw record turnout among African-American voters in the 2008 general election in which voters had the opportunity to elect the country’s first African-American president. More than half of the African-American Voters in Florida that year cast ballots before Election Day in early voting sites. The DSCC sees it as no coincidence that the Republican-dominated Florida Legislature would institute voting changes that will disparately affect minority voters in an election year when suppressing the minority vote likely will help Republican candidates. But under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, minority voting rights cannot be bartered in the course of political gamesmanship.
Of course, Rick Scott’s voter suppression law is just one small part of a widespread GOP war on voting. Several Republican-controlled states recently enacted so-called “voter ID” laws which effectively disenfranchise tens of thousands of elderly voters, young voters, students, minorities and low-income voters. Because of their disproportionate impact on racial minorities, these laws also violate the federal Voting Rights Act.
Likewise, Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) signed his very own law limiting early voting. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) declared war on the state’s unions and cut the state’s public financing scheme — both of which are attempts to reduce the viability of pro-worker candidates while enhancing corporate control of elections. The Maine Republican Party chair even made the paranoid claim that his state must make it harder to vote because “Democrats intentionally steal elections.”
And, sadly, these voter suppression efforts are just one display of the GOP’s utter contempt for democracy. If Republicans can win a fair election, than they have every right to govern. But disenfranchising voters for electoral gain is not simply despicable — it undermines the legitimacy of any government elected by taking advantage of these tactics.