Last spring, Florida made some changes to its election law. Cloaked as technical tweaks, the new laws have the potential to swing the 2012 election. When it comes to presidential elections, Florida matters. With 29 electoral votes, Florida is by far the most influential swing state in the country. Who gets to vote in Florida could determine who will win the election. There are over 11 million registered voters in the state. But after the changes put in place last spring, there may be far fewer Floridians going to the polls in 2012. President Obama and the Republican nominee will be fighting for every last one of those votes. The state is so critical to the race that there’s early talk of Floridian political stars like Senator Marco Rubio or former Governor Jeb Bush joining the Republican ticket. In 2008, Obama defeated Senator John McCain in Florida by a little more than 200,000 votes, out of more than 8 million cast. The changes enacted last spring include severe restrictions on groups that register new voters, cutting the early voting period nearly in half and rolling back voting rights for those with criminal convictions in their past.
Of course this year will not be the first time Floridians have had trouble casting a ballot. Most of us remember the perfect storm of Florida election administration that kept the 2000 presidential election hanging on 537 votes for over a month, only to be finally handed to George W. Bush by a 5-4 vote backing an unsigned Supreme Court opinion.
The pathetic scene in 2000 was created by a convergence of administrative errors, technical glitches and a lack of judgment at the highest levels of election administration: broken polling machines, inaccurate and incomplete voter registration lists, inadequate language translation, inaccessible polling places, poorly trained poll workers and an overall lack of preparation for a large voter turnout that created long lines, eligible voters being turned away and valid votes left uncounted.
Although voters across the state were stymied that year, poor and minority communities suffered the worst of it. In a report documenting its comprehensive investigation of the 2000 election, the United States Commission on Civil Rights found that approximately 11 percent of Florida voters in 2000 were African-American; yet African-Americans cast more than half of the 180,000 rejected ballots. The commission found that “statistical data, reinforced by credible anecdotal evidence, point to the widespread denial of voting rights.” The report then concluded that “the disenfranchisement of Florida’s voters fell most harshly on the shoulders of black voters.”
Full Article: Florida. How Soon We Forget. – NYTimes.com.