Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Another sneak attack punishes Florida voters | Steve Bousquet. (Sun Sentinel opinion column)

State of Siege in Tallahassee? 

Follow the money,  

Moneybags have given wealthy Dull Republicans's cats paws a supermajority in our Florida Legislature.

Lousy legislators gave only 24 hours notice of a hearing on a 98 page bill. 

Such sneaky smarmy SOBs.

So are aachnid apparatchiks in corrupt State Capitol are, once again, following the lousy louche voter-suppressing lead of Reichwing groups, ALEC, KOCH INDUSTRIES, et al.?

Are there any checks and balances left over cynical corpulent corporate conmen-lobbyists?

You tell me. 

From South Florida Sun-Sentinel: 


Another sneak attack punishes Florida voters | Steve Bousquet

Jayden D'Onofrio testifying before a Senate committee in opposition to more changes to voting laws in Florida. (Florida Channel)

TALLAHASSEE — Jayden D’Onofrio, a bright young student at Western High School in Davie, took a day off from school and attended a meeting of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee in Tallahassee.

In just a couple of hours, he got a civics lesson he won’t soon forget. He watched the Florida Legislature’s Republican supermajority in all of its arrogant sense of superiority, determined once more to silence voters. You won’t find that in any DeSantis-approved advance placement class.

The 18-year-old senior and many others watched in disgust as Republican senators launched into Act III of what’s become an annual ritual in Tallahassee of rewriting election laws to make it harder for people to vote or register to vote. Two years ago, it was Senate Bill 90, the law the governor signed on “Fox & Friends.” Last year, it was Senate Bill 524.

The latest version, Senate Bill 7050, ran on for 98 pages, and it was made public less than 24 hours before the hearing began. That’s allowed under Senate rules because the bill was introduced by a committee, not by an individual senator.

Steve Bousquet, South Florida Sun-Sentinel editor and columnist.

The short notice is a deliberate legislative sneak attack to give voting advocates and the public as little time as possible to read and understand all of the convoluted language and then get to Tallahassee for a Wednesday afternoon hearing.

“This process was really pretty awful,” Democratic Sen. Tina Polsky of Boca Raton said when the charade ended with a 6 to 3 vote in support of the bill, with all six Republicans voting yes and all three Democrats voting no. “If this bill was so benign, we would have seen it a lot earlier. ... I’m disappointed and embarrassed by this process.”

In summary, this bill is a punitive assault against groups, most of them staffed by volunteers, that try to register voters. Those groups would face stricter deadlines of 10 days to return voting forms, not the current 14, and much stiffer fines if they fail to return the forms, of as much as $100,000 in extreme cases.

It looks more and more as if the Legislature wants to put third-party voter registration organizations out of business, leaving only political parties to find new voters — a task at which Republicans excel and which Democrats have been incompetent of late. The numbers speak for themselves.

This bill sets transparency back a decade by allowing political committees to file their financial reports every three months, not every month as they must now. PCs have proliferated among lawmakers, who would rather not have their constituents seeing who’s writing them checks quite so often.

Wait — there’s more. The bill makes it harder to vote by mail. Any voter without a Florida ID, Social Security number or Florida driver’s license must vote in person the first time they vote, not by mail or at an early voting site.

A deeply skeptical D’Onofrio, president of a group called Voters of Tomorrow Florida, says the motive is to discourage college students from voting. “We have tens of thousands of students (from) out of state,” D’Onofrio testified. “They have their former state IDs and their former state driver’s license.”

This bill, in somewhat modified form, looks greased for passage, but you had to look around the hearing room very closely to see why.

Not one elected supervisor of elections was at the hearing, and one reason is that the Senate and the Division of Elections have accommodated their requests for changes designed to make the voter rolls as accurate as possible, which may be the only sensible policy in this bill.

Maintaining integrity of the voter rolls takes on new urgency following DeSantis’ wrongheaded decision to end Florida’s membership in ERIC, the Electronic Registration Information Center, which made it much easier to track possible voter fraud and duplicate multi-state voter registrations.

Had the supervisors showed up, they might have been forced to defend the indefensible that makes up most of these 98 pages.

But not one line in this bill will make it easier for anyone to vote in Florida. The committee chairman, Sen. Danny Burgess, R-Zephyrhills, was unapologetic.

“It’s actually hard not to vote,” Burgess said.

Steve Bousquet is Opinion Editor of the Sun Sentinel and a columnist in Tallahassee. Contact him at sbousquet@sunsentinel.com or (850) 567-2240 and follow him on Twitter @stevebousquet.

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