State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala (Pic by Mark Foley)
State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala (Pic by Mark Foley)

Lawmakers pushing election crackdown have yet to show why changes are needed

By | 04.20.11 | 2:55 pm

State Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, who is sponsoring a massive election bill, has said that some provisions, which critics have charged would lead to voter suppression, are intended to prevent electoral “mischief.”

What kind of mischief?

“Can you spell ACORN?” he said.

ACORN — which disbanded in March 2010 — found itself at the center of a scandal because some workers attempted to register the likes of “Mickey Mouse” and “Mary Poppins” to vote in the states like Nevada, in an effort to bilk the organization out of extra cash, since the group paid them based on the number of new voters they signed up. The scandal-mongers generally fail to explain how Mr. Mouse would ever get to the polls, much less affect the outcome of an election.

Baxley said the specter of cartoon characters appearing on voter rolls wasn’t meant to be taken literally. It was simply an illustration of the kinds of problems the changes are intended to prevent. Backers of the bill have yet to illustrate that those problems even exist in Florida.

One provision in the bill’s 150 or so pages would impose new regulations on third-party groups that register voters, tightening their deadlines and setting them up for potentially hundreds of dollars in fines. Another would require people who change their names and addresses on election day to vote by provisional ballot.

Ion Sancho, the Leon County supervisor of elections, said he has not seen “one scintilla of evidence” that the proposed changes are necessary. In the wake of the 2000 electoral debacle, Florida invested tens of millions of dollars in a database that allows election officials to pre-screen voters before election day.

Florida now has some of the best voter registration database and picture ID laws in the country, Sancho said. Mickey Mouse would never make it onto the voter rolls, nor would any Bobby Bowdens, other than the real ones. People who change their names and addresses at the polls (which Florida has allowed since the 1970s) can be checked against the same database, meaning officials can be confidant that voters are legitimate and have not already voted in some other part of the state.

Pushing tens of thousands of voters onto provisional ballots would lead to longer lines at the polls and hamper efforts to count legitimate votes, which he said must be done within four days of a general election.

“They’re actually increasing the chances of problems in our elections, not decreasing the potential for fraud,” he said.

The bill is expected to be taken up today on the House floor, and could be voted on as early as tomorrow. Democrats have proposed more than 30 amendments, many of them aimed at eliminating the provisions opponents have charged would lead to voter suppression. If those provisions remain in place, will their supporters present any evidence to show they are necessary?

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