The Florida House passed a sweeping overhaul of election laws Thursday that Republicans say will streamline voting machinery and Democrats say will make it harder for people to vote in the nation’s biggest battleground state in 2012.
Passage on a 79-37 party-line vote followed two days of intensely partisan debate — a harbinger of next year’s presidential election when Florida’s newly increased 29 electoral votes and all 160 legislative seats will be at stake in a pivotal reapportionment year. But the closest that any Republican lawmaker came to stating the obvious — invoking President Barack Obama’s name — was a passing reference to preventing “the Chicago method” of voting more than once.
In another sign of the muscle-flexing power of Republican supermajorities in both houses, the GOP is making changes to voting laws for the next election, and the vastly outnumbered Democrats are powerless to stop it.
“This is a great country. Our vote is precious, and we’re going to protect it,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, sponsor of the bill, HB 1355.
Neither Florida’s election supervisors nor the secretary of state requested the most controversial changes, which are among the most hotly debated since the aftermath of the 2000 presidential recount.