FROM THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
New Florida laws will reverse efforts to expand access to the polls, former Gov. Charlie Crist wrote in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times.
“Much is being said about Florida’s controversial new voter registration laws, which make it more difficult for people to register and reduce the availability of early-voting opportunities,” he wrote in an op-ed. “These new measures appear to be a step backward in protecting the right to vote for citizens of the Sunshine State.”
The 2011 Legislature cut the number of early voting days in half, rescinded restoration of the vote for ex-felons who had completed their sentences, and excluded the Sunday before Election Day – traditionally a big day for African-American churches to send “souls to the polls” – from the early voting period.
Crist also noted that under the new laws, third-party groups who fail to file new registration forms with the supervisor of elections within 48 hours of collection face stiff fines.
“As a result, groups such as the League of Women Voters and Rock the Vote have decided to suspend their registration drives in Florida for fear that compliance with the new laws is too difficult,” he wrote. “These groups have a long history in Florida of getting the people involved in participating in the electoral process through registration drives.”
Liberalized voting rules
In 2007, Crist convinced the clemency board to return the right to vote to ex-felons who have completed their sentences and other legal requirements. During the 2008 presidential election, he issued an executive order extending the hours of operation at Florida polling places.
Crist noted in Tuesday’s op-ed that Florida lawmakers named voter fraud as the reason for the new laws, but said creating barriers to voter registration or access to the polls is contrary to American democratic ideals.
“The right to vote is sacred, and people have fought and died to protect it,” he wrote.
Crist left the Republican Party, which controls the Florida Legislature, in 2010 to run as an independent for the U.S. Senate seat won by the GOP’s Marco Rubio. He is frequently mentioned as a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2014.