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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/10/21

Florida Legislature Must Pass "Freedom to Register and Vote Act" Now

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Florida Removing ELIGIBLE Voters from Voter Rolls Florida incorrectly tells hundreds of eligible voters that they are ineligible to vote. --On the Bonus Show: Louis hosts: Google cars getting private info from ...
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The Florida legislature must pass a "Freedom to Register and Vote Act" this year. The law is necessary if the Sunshine State plans to live up to the props recently accorded it in a report in The Wall Street Journal. The article offers kind words for our governor, and quotes a Florida resident, who said, "If there's something that I'll never, ever give up, it is freedom."

Granted, some residents view freedom as the right to not wear a mask in public during a pandemic that has killed more than 500,000 Americans. Others, though understand the word in more practical terms. Freedom to them involves the freedom to register and vote without government agents denying them their right to participate in our democracy.

This actually happened to thousands of legitimately registered Florida voters in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election, which George W. Bush won by 537 votes. The Florida victory propelled Bush to the White House. Worse yet, it can happen again as Florida law mandates that government officials conduct "list maintenance" at least once every odd-numbered year.

"Florida's overzealous efforts to purge voters from the rolls, conducted under the guise of an anti-fraud campaign, resulted in the inexcusable and patently unjust removal of disproportionate numbers of African American voters from Florida's voter registration rolls for the November 2000 election," according to a document released by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

And an investigation by the Brennan Center reveals:

"Far too often, election officials believe they have "matched" two voters when they are actually looking at the records of two distinct individuals with similar identifying information. These cases of mistaken identity cause eligible voters to be wrongly removed from the rolls. The infamous Florida purge of 2000 conservative estimates place the number of wrongfully purged voters close to 12,000 was generated in part by bad matching criteria. Florida registrants were purged from the rolls in part if 80 percent of the letters of their last names were the same as those of persons with criminal convictions. Those wrongly purged included Reverend Willie D. Whiting Jr., who, under the matching criteria, was considered the same person as Willie J. Whiting."

The Brennan Center report offers recommendations on how to temper this threat to freedom and democracy. But I think a conservative approach is needed to protect the sacred right to register and to vote. I'd like to see our politicians create a law that imposes fines and/or jail time for government officials and/or the private companies they hire. Those fines and jail sentences ought to be imposed if we learn usually after the election that, oops, sorry, we purged your name from the voter rolls but should not have done so.

Don't want to pay a fine? Ok. Don't want to go to jail? Great. But first make sure that you "do no harm." Don't you dare remove a registered voter from the voter rolls unless you are absolutely certain you have a legal justification for crushing that person's freedom to register and vote.

This proposal ought to find Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives rushing to the tv cameras and social media websites, clamoring to back it. Why? Because Florida is a law-and-order state that believes in freedom for people who play by the rules. The legislature should have no problem passing this proposed law quickly and sending it to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.

Unless, of course, Florida is only about limiting registration and voting options, even for the many freedom-loving residents of this state.

It so happens that the GOP-controlled Florida House and Senate are hard at work crafting legislation to restrict voting rights based on the "Big Lie" of twice-impeached Sunshine State resident Donald John Trump. Lawmakers can shore up their support for free and fair elections by protecting the rights of Floridians who register to vote.

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Steve Schneider lives in Florida. He writes articles for Humor Times, Democracy Chronicles, The Satirist and OpEd News.

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