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Commentary

For voter suppression, take I-95 north

Published:   |   Updated: July 10, 2013 at 03:07 PM

The reaction to last month's Supreme Court ruling that rendered Section 4 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional was full of typical hyperbole about the impact the court's decision will have on minority voting rights.

The overturned section related to the formula by which nine states and some jurisdictions in other states (including just six counties in Florida) are brought under Section 5, which requires them to get federal permission - "preclearance" - for even the most minor changes in voting procedures.

In his opinion, Chief Justice Roberts wrote Section 4 "[uses] obsolete statistics," and that the coverage formula "violates the constitution."

To wit, the Supreme Court did not overturn the act itself, just Section 4, and effectively Section 5. Congress is free to consider rewriting the law, though if it wants to ensure fair voting it should look elsewhere.

Such as the 15 states (mostly in the Northeast and in states that strongly tend to favor Democrats), that don't permit any form of early voting or "no-excuse needed" vote by mail (previously referred to as "absentee" voting). Among those states are New York, Massachusetts, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Despite the fact that these Democratic Party-leaning states have more restrictive voting opportunities than Florida, our state and its Republican elected officials are frequently vilified by the media for so-called "voter suppression."

While the state Legislature did tighten some of the rules regarding early voting in 2011, it reinstated most of them this year. But even under the pre-reinstated laws, Florida had far less-restrictive elections than in 15 states, as well as some others that permit early voting and/or no-excuse mail balloting but that are more restrictive than Florida's.

Yet the liberal mainstream media rarely looks in its own backyard. It's much easier to label Florida's legislators and our governor as right-wing voter suppressors than it is to do a little research and then point out that Florida has some of the most progressive voting laws in the country - all of which were instituted by Republicans (not Democrats), and that New York (home of the liberal mainstream media) has among the most oppressive voting laws in the country.

For example, the Obama Network (aka MSNBC), noted in a propaganda report that the effort to overturn provisions of the Voting Rights Act "...underlines the extent to which it's a product of the broader partisan voter suppression campaign pushed by Republicans last year in a failed attempt to defeat President Obama."

It is doubtful that the portion of the overturned law will have any impact on the rights of anyone to vote. In Florida, the six counties where the law applied (Collier, Escambia, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough and Monroe), are hardly known today as bastions of racism. In fact, they never were. Despite a public misperception, the law applied to those Florida counties to protect Hispanic voters, not blacks; and not because of racism, but because of their large Hispanic populations that were underrepresented at the polls. Today - as Justice Roberts rightly noted - the 40-plus-year-old formula is outdated and no longer needed.

The preclearance requirement produced an unnecessary and expensive taxpayer burden in counties that were required to submit even the most simple changes, such as moving a polling location from one location to another down the street. This effort would have warranted a preclearance review by the Department of Justice so its infinite number of wise bureaucrats could twiddle their thumbs for months to consider the change's impact on voters.

The requirement also resulted in different times early voting polling places were open from one county to the next. Somehow DOJ believed voters in Hillsborough needed polling places to be open longer than those in neighboring counties.

It is also important to consider the raw numbers - because they don't lie. In Florida in the 2012 general election, more people voted for president than in 2008. This, despite the so-called "voter suppression" laws instituted by the Legislature that were in effect in 2012.

Certainly, additional tweaks may be in order to help further reduce lines on general Election Day, but it doesn't appear any Florida voter is being intentionally disenfranchised. The problems most voters encounter on Election Day are due to voter ignorance (showing up at the wrong polling place or being registered in another county are common examples) - not voter suppression.

Although the long lines of outraged voters long past midnight in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties make for good video on the nightly news, the untold story is the supervisors of elections in those counties consistently have problems executing problem-free elections - mostly due to their own incompetence. It is worth noting all three supervisors are Democrats.

In short, in Florida there is no excuse for any voter to stand in a long line on Election Day. Because with early voting, there is no reason to have to stand in line at all, since a mail ballot can be easily requested online, over the phone or in person by any registered voter. Of course voters are expected to at least know the county in which they are registered in order to request a ballot.

And that is something the liberal-leaning national media would rather not mention when it paints Florida as being engaged in "voter suppression."

Chris Ingram is a Republican political consultant and political analyst at Bay News 9. Follow him on Twitter: @IrreverentView.

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