Wednesday on MSNBC’s Politics Nation with Rev. Al Sharpton, state Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, revived his defense of the controversial voting law he sponsored last session by saying that the new law was a way of ensuring that Floridians do not register fictitious characters such as “Mickey Mouse” to vote, among other sorts of electoral “mischief.”
Reports have surfaced from several nonpartisan groups suggesting that Florida actively suppressed the voting rights of minorities, young people, the disabled and low-income voters by passing a restrictive elections law last session. These demographics typically vote for Democrats.
Federal policymakers have also criticized the Florida law — as well as other states that have similarly passed restrictive voting laws before the upcoming 2012 election. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., even pressed for congressional field hearing into laws he says were possibly passed for partisan gain.
However, Baxley argues these claims are untrue. He says the law was written to have a “secure election process that works,” he told Sharpton.
Sharpton repeatedly pointed out to Baxley that there were only 31 cases of alleged election fraud reported to state officials in the past three years, which he says is evidence of politically motivation for the new restrictions.
Baxley said the law was meant to prevent electoral “mischief,” not to necessarily respond to a problem in the state’s voting laws.
Baxley did say, however, that in the last election there were instances of people registering the name “Mickey Mouse” to vote in Florida. Baxley said it was that type of ”mishap and mischief” that he was aiming to prevent in the 2012 election.
However, Sharpton quickly dismissed the argument.
“If you’ve got to get Mickey Mouse to make your case … then believe me you’re trying to take all of us to Disney World for a ride,” he told Baxley.
Baxley’s argument is not new. In fact, while the bill was being debated in the Legislature, Baxley tied the need for new voting laws to allegations that a group called ACORN was registering fictitious characters such as “Mickey Mouse” and “Mary Poppins” in exchange for cash.
As The Florida Independent reported in Aptril, though, legislators never successfully explained how these fictitious characters would ever make it to the polls, cast a ballot and affect the outcome of an election.
Sharpton also interviewed the president of the nonpartison League of Women Voters. For decades, before the new restrictions were placed on third-party voter registration, the group registered people to vote in the state. During his interview, Baxley said the group should “get over their angst” concerning the voting law.
Baxley has also said publicly that the law is not “going to limit anybody’s participation.”
The state is still awaiting a court’s approval of some of the more controversial aspects of the law, which includes new restrictions on third-party voter registration drives, a shorter “shelf life” for signatures collected for ballot initiatives, a restriction that makes it more difficult for voters to change their registered addresses on election day and a reduction of the number of early voting days.
You can watch Baxley’s interview, as well as Sharpton’s interview with the League of Women Voters here: