Commentary: A Win for Voting Rights in Florida

Commentary: A Win for Voting Rights in Florida

A federal judge has struck down key parts of a Florida law that made it harder for people of color to register to vote.

Published June 1, 2012

Just this week the NAACP commended Walmart for dropping its membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an ultra-conservative advocacy group that’s been making waves lately. Besides supporting the “stand your ground” law that saw Trayvon Martin’s now infamous killing go unpunished for weeks, ALEC is also a staunch supporter of the kinds of biased voter ID laws that would keep African-Americans disproportionately out of the polls.

Today, there’s a new victory in the battle against disenfranchising Blacks on the road toward the November election. Better still, the victory comes in Florida, where news of progressive wins are few and far between these days.

On Thursday, a federal judge in Florida blocked important parts of HB 1355, a voting law passed in 2011 that, in the words of Colorlines, “placed onerous demands on organizations wishing to register voters and stage voter registration drives.” Over at The Nation, Brentin Mock explains just how absurd the law got:

Before Florida’s HB 1355 law was passed last year, completed registration applications could be turned in within ten days, allowing for those staging voter registration drives to do quality control checks to make sure forms were filled out accurately. But under HB 1355, a person wishing to register voters has to first register with the state to obtain an identification number — a provision left untouched by the judges ruling — and then had to turn in voter registration forms in literally forty-right hours after the minute it was signed. That last part is no joke—each voter registration form has to have the third-party registration organization’s state-issued ID number, date, hour and minute of form completion on it. If the form is handed in after the forty-eight-hour window, the registrar could face penalties, in some cases up to $1,000, even if the forms came late because of a natural disaster or car accident or got lost in the mail.

That this ridiculous law has had some of its more ridiculous parts taken out is good for all voters, of course, but it’s especially good for voters of color. Reports Mock, African-American and Latino voters are two times more likely as white voters to register to vote through “community-based organizations,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice. If a government hampers these organizations with Byzantine laws, it can put voting drives out of business, or intimidate voters wary of bureaucracy.

Alas, while there’s been a win in Florida, many harsh voter ID laws remain throughout the country. Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed to uphold the Voting Rights Act, but how successful he will be is uncertain; there are currently several voter ID cases going through the courts right now, and only time will tell. In the meantime, you have to wonder about what kind of person enjoys arbitrarily disenfranchising another. Democracy certainly leads to rather undemocratic behavior sometimes.

 

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.

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(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Written by Cord Jefferson

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