On Friday, August 17, Florida started using the Homeland Security immigration database to check and purge their voting rolls. Now, the state’s Republican Governor gets another lesson in reality.
Rick Scott pushed through a law last year requiring all welfare recipients to be drug tested at their own expense. He and the Republicans were absolutely, categorically positive that welfare recipients were hardened drug users. They were so sure of this that they included in the law a provision that reimbursed the welfare recipients who passed their drug tests. What happened? Welfare recipients in Florida use drugs at half the rate of the general population, 2% to 4%. The reimbursements cost the state tens of thousands of dollars.
Now, Scott is going to learn that Latinos have a very high rate of repetition in names, not quite as much as Muslims do, but enough to turn this exercise into a major mess. Frankly, we have seen too many times how bad the Homeland Security lists are with idiot episodes at airports when 18 month olds are found on the no-fly list or Yusef Islam/Cat Stevens is detained in an airport. The state says that anyone whose name is on the immigration list will be contacted for verification and not be ambushed at the polls, but the bottom line is just how many illegals actually would risk trying to vote?
There are about 11 million illegals in this country. About a million of them are under 18. Even if, as the right wing likes to claim, every single one of them managed to vote in 2008, it would not have changed the outcome of the election. President Obama did not get elected on the illegal immigrant vote, which is the justification for support of the photo ID laws.
Next up is early voting.
I lived for several years in Georgia, just down the street from a very large black church. Aside from the fact that I developed an interest in “church lady hats” (thanks to the comic strip Curtis), I saw how seriously the congregation believed in their voting rights, and the way they worked to make sure all their members got to the polls. I worked with the minister’s daughter for a while and knew many members. In Florida, since the inception of early voting, it has been a tradition for black churches to transport their members to the polls on the last Sunday before election day in a program they call “Get Your Souls To The Polls.”
Florida’s new voting laws reduce the number of early voting hours and eliminate that Sunday voting altogether.
The Justice Department and civil rights groups protested the law, and under the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the DoJ was able to block the changes in Collier, Hendry, Osceola, Polk and Lee counties. Late Thursday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia has upheld the decision of the Justice Department, saying that the restricted voting hours were discriminatory.
There was a second aspect to the lawsuit, involving changes to voter registration rules when third parties are involved. Until that aspect of the lawsuit is ruled on, the state cannot appeal this decision. The Court upheld the portion of the law that says that persons who have moved from one county to another can cast provisional ballots if they have not changed their addresses yet.
In the meantime, those civil rights groups can go ahead and file suit saying that the Court’s ruling sets up double rules in Florida and what is legal in five counties should be expanded to the other 62 counties. The state of Ohio had to make their early voting uniform when their county-by-county hours raised state-wide protests. There, Ohio decided to avoid the Courts and made the correction themselves.
There are eighty days until the election. The Court battles over these discriminatory changes to voting laws could linger on for years.