The Florida House passed its version of a controversial rewrite of state election laws, which Republican supporters said was intended to ensure the integrity of the state’s voting system.

“This is a great country, our vote is precious and we’re going to protect it,” said Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, the sponsor of the measure.

Democrats contended the measure was aimed at solving “an imaginary problem” with a measure that would stifle the vote going into the 2012 elections. They questioned why Republicans were pushing provisions that would make it more difficult for voters to change their addresses on election day and impose tight deadlines and new registration requirements on groups that sign up new voters.

“I’ve figured it out,” said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. “We’re afraid that the people are going to figure out what’s been going on here [in Tallahassee] for the last few weeks.”

Republicans have yet to illustrate a systemic problem of fraud that the bill would help prevent, though Eric Eisnaugle, R-Orlando, contended that investigations by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement turned up some instances. In one case, someone tried to sign up an unnamed dead actor. Petition gatherers have attempted to add students to the voter rolls without their knowledge during ballot initiatives. “In another case,” he said, “Mickey Mouse was registered to vote.”

Here’s what happened several years ago with Mr. Mouse, according to a St. Petersburg Times article published at the time :

Mickey Mouse tried to register to vote in Florida this summer.

Orange County elections officials rejected his application, which was stamped with the logo of the nonprofit group ACORN.

More recently, the Times reported:

A spokesman for Secretary of State Kurt Browning, the state’s chief elections official, said that in 2010, no cases of voter fraud were referred to the agency concerning voters changing their name, address or political party affiliation at a polling place.

Again, today:

Secretary of State Kurt Browning, who has served under two Republican governors, has repeatedly said Florida’s state-of-the-art electronic voter database that requires a four-digit unique numerical match for every voter has virtually eliminated fraud. In 2009, Browning’s office said state voter registration laws ensure that only eligible people can vote.

“We have to know where this fraud is happening,” said Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar. “I think if Rep. Baxley’s good bill passes, then we’ll have a better sense of where that fraud occurs.”

Gaetz compared the bill to a pill mill measure the House passed earlier that day.

“Does every problem have to reach that level of magnitude before we can get buy-in on the notion that reform needs to happen in our state?” he asked. “I certainly hope not.”

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