Even as Gov. Rick Scott’s top elections official suddenly backed away from a plan to restrict the way voters can return completed absentee ballots, Florida’s top Democrat accused the Scott administration of attempting to suppress voter turnout. “It’s patently obvious. It’s an attempt to suppress the vote by people who otherwise might have difficulty getting to the polls on Election Day,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., at a news conference Wednesday at the Palm Beach County Elections Office headquarters. Americans’ right to vote is “precious” and guaranteed by the Constitution, Nelson said. “When you start making it more difficult to cast that ballot, that is interfering with that constitutional right.”
Nelson was on the second day of a tour of elections offices to press the issue. He was in Hillsborough County on Tuesday. He’s scheduled to visit the Orange County elections supervisor Thursday.
The immediate controversy involves a special election for Congress set for next year in Pinellas County on Florida’s west coast. But the big picture involves all Florida elections and how easy, or difficult, it will be for people to register and vote, said Daniel Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida.
“This is all part of that larger battle for voting rights,” Smith said. “The voting process is inherently political. And if you can change the rules of the game, you can create an advantage, or a disadvantage.”