On election night, President Barack Obama thanked voters who braved long lines at polling places throughout the country. People waited as long as seven hours in some precincts in Florida, with some still waiting to cast a ballot long past midnight. In other states, such as Virginia and Maryland, lines also stretched into hours. “By the way, we have to fix that,” Mr. Obama said. But with the presidential election over, comprehensive overhauls to the patchwork of state election laws remain a distant goal. More than a decade after the 2000 Florida vote-count debacle, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee last week spotlighted complaints about the casting and counting of votes that persist despite a package of post-2000 adjustments.
The hearing focused on charges of voter suppression and questions on why the vote counting stretched on for days in states including Florida and Arizona. Pennsylvania’s contentious voter identification law and similar measures in Arizona, Texas and South Carolina were also discussed.
The most vivid accusations of voter suppression came in the testimony of former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democrat accused his successor, Gov. Rick Scott, and a GOP-controlled legislature of a multipronged attack on voter rights through a legislative package that was designed to place curbs on registration and curtail the early voting that has become a prominent part of the state’s voting culture.
Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Fla., joined in the denunciation of the changed voting procedures in his home state.
“Florida’s 2011 election law changes were politically motivated and clearly designed to disenfranchise likely Democratic voters,” he said. “Leading up to the 2012 election, at least a dozen state legislatures controlled by Republicans approved new obstacles to voting as part of the campaign linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which receives substantial funding from the Koch brothers.”
He referred to the billionaire political activists who have donated to a wide variety of conservative causes.