The United States Supreme Court ruled in June of this year that the long-standing portion of the Voting Rights Act that required 15 states with a history of discrimination (Florida being one of them) in voter registration obtain prior approval from the Justice Department before changing voting laws was unconstitutional.
The requirement that these states could not initiate any new rules governing voter registration as well as establishing voting dates and times without obtaining prior approval from the federal government was struck down.
A majority of he Supreme Court justices opined that the nation had come a long way in establishing voter rights and a court order requiring prior approval was no longer necessary.
The initial court ruling came as a result of most Southern states requiring voter testing to determine if an individual could register. In many states individuals were required to pay a “poll tax” which effectively eliminated poor whites and blacks from voting. In almost every case the reason for the prohibitive registration/ voting requirements were to prevent voters from voting against the “establishment.”
The day that the Supreme Court removed the requirement of Justice Department prior approval of voter registration techniques a number of Southern states, including Florida, announced that they would commence a purge of their list of registered voters.
It is impossible to argue against wanting to eliminate those individuals who illegally registered to vote. Americans have died at home and in wars around the world defending this right and to say we should not examine the voter rolls for illegals is illogical.
However, when Florida Gov. Rick Scott responded to the court’s decision, alongside his history of voter suppression such as eliminating voting on the last Sunday before election, shorter voting hours and fewer voting days, it became apparent that his desire went beyond wanting to remove the few illegals that registered to vote. It became apparent that his wish is to eliminate those voters who did not agree with his politics.
Reuters, on Aug. 5, is quoted as saying that “Florida Governor Rick Scott is planning a new effort to purge non-U.S. citizens from the state’s voter rolls — a move that last year prompted a series of legal challenges and claims from critics his administration was trying to intimidate minority voters.
Voter protection groups identified a number of errors in the state’s attempt to identify people who are not American citizens on Florida’s voter lists months ahead of the U.S. presidential election in November 2012.
The search also sparked several lawsuits, including one by the U.S. Justice Department, which claimed the effort violated federal law because it was conducted less than 90 days before the election.
Advocacy groups called the review of non-citizens a thinly veiled attempt to disqualify Hispanic and African-American voters, who tend to vote for Democratic candidates. A disproportionately large number of those identified in 2012 were either Hispanic or black, the groups said.
Last year, Florida officials said they had drawn up an initial list of 182,000 potential non-citizens. But that number was reduced to fewer than 200 after election officials acknowledged errors on the original list.
In identifying potential non-citizens, Florida officials sent their information to county election supervisors who then mailed letters to voters requesting proof they were U.S. citizens. If no response was received, the voter was dropped from the rolls.
The effort, which angered some county election supervisors, was the subject of lawsuits from five voter protection groups and at least two individual plaintiffs.
Howard Simon, executive director of the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said he expected many county election supervisors to press the state to offer precise documentation that a voter may not be a U.S. citizen in any forthcoming review.”
Let’s hope that the press and the community keep their eye on the purging process and make sure that those that are eligible to vote retain their right. We must also keep an eye on Tallahassee to make sure that we do not return to the type of restrictive voting dates and hours so we do not see a return to the disasters of the last presidential election where individuals stood in line for up to six hours just to exercise their right to vote.
We appreciate your opinions on this column whether in agreement or disagreement. Please send your comments to (fax number) 305-662- 6980 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of this newspaper, its editors or publisher.