November 8, 2011

Targeted Voter Suppression

The Florida legislative session ending April 30 was crammed with attempts to curtail civil rights. I knew about these efforts as soon as they were introduced, because I was on the receiving end of email alerts from the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. As a result of the 2011 legislative session, Florida is now one step closer to government funding of religion. The voters will have a chance to weigh in on this one. There were a total of eighteen separate bills filed to limit, discourage, or outlaw reproductive freedom, most of which did not pass. Many new restrictions on voting did pass. A Senate proposal criminalized a doctor asking a patient if they had a gun at home; it would have come with a $1 million fine. Thankfully this was scaled back. You get the picture. The ACLU provides a more detailed report.

Which of these issues might be of interest to the Occupy Movement? Here's a hint. In Florida, it is now harder to register to vote, harder to vote, and harder to have your vote counted. There are new restrictions on vote monitoring and election auditing. To be more specific, new Florida legislation reduces the number of days for early voting from fourteen to eight. Registering people to vote now comes with such a large fine for minor infractions that the League of Women Voters abandoned their 72 year tradition of voter registration drives in Florida. This comes on top of existing photo identification requirements. I worked as a precinct clerk at the polls through several election cycles. An out-of-state driver's license could not be used as a valid photo id; sorry out-of-state college students, we don't want you voting here. The list goes on.

Just this evening, I received a newsletter from my U.S. Senator, Bill Nelson, letting me know that "Many believe a handful of super-rich conservative activists are behind an orchestrated effort to keep millions of seniors, younger voters and minorities from casting ballots next year." Thank you Senator Nelson for not being fooled into thinking this is about clean elections. As it turns out, laws similar to those passed in Florida were also passed in many other states. According to Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation, this is part of a larger coordinated effort by the Koch Brothers and

the American Legislative Exchange Council, also known as ALEC. ALEC is a corporate sponsored group that lets large corporations help write legislation that is then provided to state legislators across the country. This power dynamic is exactly where the Occupy Movement is focusing its high beams. If you want to take action against voter suppression laws, sign this petition to Attorney General Eric Holder.

Sources: ACLU of Florida, Senator Bill Nelson's, Alec Watch

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