MIAMI, FLORIDA — Although this is the first presidential election since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013 — allowing states like Florida to make changes to their elections law without the approval of the Justice Department — Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) says increased turnout across the state proves that voters won’t be deterred.
Murphy, who is trying to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio (R) in the Senate, told ThinkProgress he hopes this election will be a turning point when it comes to access to the ballot.
“I believe this election could really show those Republicans that we’re not going to stand for it as Americans,” he said. “We’re going to turn out no matter what it takes — and that’s why we’re seeing record turnout.”
As of the end of Florida’s early voting period Sunday night, 6.4 million Sunshine State residents had cast ballots — roughly half of all eligible voters in the state. Latino turnout was up more than 100 percent from 2012.
“We’re going to turn out no matter what it takes — and that’s why we’re seeing record turnout.”
The record numbers are likely a result of a number of factors, including increased get-out-the-vote efforts in Latino communities and the presence of Donald Trump, who has insulted and pandered to Latinos throughout his campaign, on the ballot.
But part of the increase can also be attributed to Gov. Rick Scott (R)’s decision in 2013 to reverse some of the most restrictive voting laws his state passed before the previous election. In 2011, the GOP-led legislature cut early voting from 14 to eight days and drastically reduced the number of polling locations, causing some voters in Miami to wait in six-hour lines.
So far this year, lines appear to be shorter across Miami-Dade County.
“This election seems to be better than previous elections, but you better believe that it’s terrible what’s happening — not only in Florida, but other efforts in other states, like North Carolina, where Republican-controlled legislatures are blocking access to the polls and they’re targeting minorities specifically,” Murphy said.
“That’s not what this country is for,” he continued.
Murphy told ThinkProgress that if he’s elected to the Senate, he will fight to restore the VRA so that Republican-controlled states will not be able to pass new restrictions in the future.
Rubio, meanwhile, has said he sees no issue with voters waiting six hours to cast a ballot in his home state. He has also disparaged efforts to expand voting to Sundays before Election Day, saying it’s not cost-effective to allow voting on the day that many African Americans vote, as predominantly black churches around the country organize “Souls to the Polls” rallies.
“If you wanted to vote in Florida, there’s no reason why you can’t vote in Florida,” he said in 2012.