In the 2008 election, Barack Obama benefited from extended voting hours and early voting days, as well as rules allowing citizens to register and vote on the same day. It’s pretty obvious why: students, the elderly, and hourly-wage workers who can’t queue for hours without making the boss angry, tend to favor Democrats. Florida – which became a byword for Banana Republicanism and electoral corruption 11 years ago – has been positively zealous in attempts to restrict voting rights on the grounds that easy voting leads to waste, fraud and abuse. One lawmaker pitched a hissy fit, claiming that dead actors (Paul Newman, for one) constantly turn up on voter rolls and that “Mickey Mouse” had registered to vote in Orlando. State senator Mike Bennett wants to make voting “harder”; after all, he said, “people in Africa literally walk 200 or 300 miles so they can have the opportunity to do what we do, and we want to make it more convenient? How much more convenient do you want to make it?”
Florida Republicans addressed the problem of “convenience” earlier this year by cutting early voting days from 14 to eight, cutting budgets for expanded polling places and eliminating Sunday voting: African American (and some Latino) churches had successfully run a post-sermon”Souls to the Polls” operation, getting out the vote in 2004, 2006 and 2008. Florida has also attacked civic-minded people trying to register new voters. Jill Ciccarelli, a teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, wanted to foster a sense of citizenship amongst her pupils, so she helped the ones who were old enough register. She didn’t know she was breaking the law. Now, all individuals or groups must file a “third party registration organisation” form with the state, and instead of having ten days to deliver the paperwork,they must now do it in 48 hours. Failure to comply could draw felony charges and thousands of dollars in fines.
… But why let the facts get in the way of rigging an election? Some conservative sages have let the veil slip long enough for us to see what’s really going on. Former Arkansas governor-turned-paid-Murdoch-mediaite Mike Huckabee likes to say that if people have friends who don’t plan to vote the rightwing line, “Let the air out of their tires on election day. Tell them the election has been moved to a different date.”
Huckabee protests he’s just joking. But Matthew Vadum, a Fox News favorite and part of the paranoid right’s brain trust, isn’t being remotely funny when he says “registering the poor to vote is un-American.” Nor was American Legislative Exchange Council co-founder Paul Weyrich back in the 1980s, when he said, “I don’t want everybody to vote. Our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.” Obviously, democracy is no fun if just anyone can play.