The Republican attorney who engineered the 2000 Florida felons list, which African American leaders said purged thousands of eligible blacks from voter rolls in the state and helped swing that election to the GOP, also wrote the first draft of Florida’s controversial House Bill 1355 that has restricted early voting and voter registration campaigns in 2012.
Emmett “Bucky” Mitchell IV, former senior attorney for the Florida Division of Elections, now in private practice in Tallahassee and serving as general counsel for the Florida GOP, testified in April in a federal voting rights lawsuit that he wrote the first draft of 1355. The Palm Beach Post uncovered the deposition while researching the origins of the law.
Dierdre Macnab, president of the Florida League of Women Voters, reacted angrily when learning from The Post of Mitchell’s involvement in writing 1355, which took effect in 2011. “I’d be deeply concerned to think that members of a political party who are not elected officials, nor staff to legislators, are drawing up voter-suppression laws in back rooms,” Macnab said. “It should be deeply troubling to the public.”
That 2011 law reduced the number of early voting days from 14 to eight in Florida and threatened independent organizations that register voters — such as the League of Women Voters — with large fines if they did not meet tight schedules for filing registration applications they collect. That latter part of the law was overturned by federal courts this year, but registration groups say that by then their ability to sign up new voters had been curtailed for several months of this year’s presidential election campaign season.
The new law also eliminated the ability of people who have moved from one county to another, and have not officially recorded their newaddress, to cast a regular ballot at the polls Nov. 6. They must now cast provisional ballots. Critics say that historically only about 50 percent of provisional ballots are accepted and counted.