First it was students and teachers.Then public employees, firefighters and policemen.

Now, Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature are taking aim at Florida voters.

Just last spring, Scott and this Republican legislature rammed through a dangerous and transparent voter suppression law, House Bill 1355, aimed directly at making it harder for Floridians to vote. They are criminalizing voter registration, virtually putting the League of Women Voters out of business, and disenfranchising thousands of young voters and college students by preventing people from changing their address at the polls. All the while, making it more difficult for hard-working Floridians and the elderly to vote by shortening the number of days and hours for early voting.

Late last week, in a dead-of-night, back door attempt to evade the U.S. Justice Department and its enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, the governor directed his Secretary of State to circumvent the Justice Department’s process mere days before a ruling was expected — a process that had lasted two months and been fully vetted. Instead, he chose to file a lawsuit in a federal court in Washington — a move that will cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars and months and months of unnecessary delay.

The move is nothing more than a partisan power grab aimed at stalling a ruling the Republicans recognize they would not win — a move that leaves Floridians holding the bill, again. Scott’s administration knows that HB 1355 hinders the voting rights of Floridians, and that any delay will further freeze voter registration efforts and place our state’s hard-working county supervisors of elections in an untenable position.

It’s no coincidence that the governor is ramping up his efforts to evade the law just in time for the 2012 elections, and that his target are those that supported our president in 2008. Its also no coincidence that a governor with a 29-percent approval rating — making him the least popular governor in the nation — doesn’t want people to vote or even register to vote.

In the midst of an economic recovery, with nearly 1 million Floridians out of work, this governor has chosen to prioritize restricting Floridians right to cast a ballot over keeping his promise to create jobs.

It’s time to focus on helping Floridians, not hindering them at every turn. It is time to stop playing politics with the right to vote. This governor’s frivolous lawsuit is nothing more than partisan politics at its worst.

Of all our rights, the right to vote is the most sacred. Women and minorities fought to get it and our soldiers fight to protect it. Playing politics with voting needs to stop and it needs to stop now.

Smith is an attorney who has served as a state attorney and state senator.


Click here to visit Senator Bill Nelson's website

Here’s a link to a column I wrote for the St. Petersburg Times; please take a minute to read it over, because it’s about an issue that should be important to everyone who believes in the principle of one-person, one-vote.

A so-called election reform bill is rapidly making its way through the Florida Legislature, which right now is in the final week of its annual lawmaking session in Tallahassee. If this bill becomes law, it would:

  • Significantly reduce the number of early-voting days;
  • Make voting harder for people who have recently changed their name or address, like, newlyweds or college students; and,
  • Subject voter-registration drives to stiff legal fines, even for inadvertent mistakes.

This is not a partisan issue, and I’m just one of many people and groups that strongly oppose this measure.
The Orlando Sentinel has said “it amounts to … ripping apart election laws” and “weakening democracy.”
The Tampa Tribune has said “this bill isn’t fooling anybody. It’s not about clean elections.”
Florida Today has called it an “assault on the most cherished of American rights.”
The Palm Beach Post has asked that we stop this “assault on all voters.”
But the state Legislature seems poised to pass it. One thing you could still do is
e-mail Gov. Rick Scott and ask him to veto the bill if it reaches his desk. 

As The St. Petersburg Times has said: “Floridians of all political stripes should not stand for it.”