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COLUMN

Florida's attempt to scrub the voter rolls is un-American

We give you five good reasons why you should care about the state's voter purge

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So get mad, people. You should care. Here are five good reasons why we should be raising the roof over this brazen act of voter suppression.

1. BECAUSE IT'S HAPPENED BEFORE
Those even mildly taken aback by the blind chutzpa currently being exhibited by Gov. Scott and his purge-worthy defiance needn't look back too far in the Florida annals for another example of suppression via the voter rolls. On Nov. 7, 2000 – the day that brought us the term "hanging chad" – Florida's less obvious electoral fumble came in the form of tens of thousands of eligible Florida voters either being turned away at their polling places or forbidden to register altogether. In a twisted bit of conservative housecleaning logic, the state had already ordered a scrub of the voter rolls prior to Gov. Jeb Bush's 1998 gubernatorial election; in order to do so, the state paid Database Technologies Inc. (the only bidder on the contract) an unprecedented $2.3 million to help get the job done; 8,000 of the names ordered to be removed from the voter rolls were provided by Texas state officials working under Jeb's big brother Gov. George W. Bush. Fast forward two years later, and Jeb Bush's since-maligned Secretary of State Katherine Harris ordered the names of 82,389 ex-felons who had relocated to Florida from states where voting rights are restored upon completion of their prison sentences in order to delete them from the voter roles. In other words, Florida broke the law. Subsequent studies found the accuracy rate of the database to be far below DBT's estimate of 85 percent (a Leon County assessment came up with a 5 percent accuracy rate), but even if DBT was correct, that would still mean that 15 percent of a population that votes 93 percent Democratic was not allowed the right to vote. Don't think that matters much? George W. Bush won Florida by a tiny margin of just 543 votes. It matters.

2. BECAUSE VOTING IS A RIGHT, NOT A PRIVILEGE
Our federal Constitution guarantees that citizens over the age of 18 cannot be deprived of a vote based on race, age or gender. The right to vote is a hard-earned one, even though most of us didn't really have to fight all that hard in our lifetimes to get it. Up until 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was finally passed, many states implemented processes and obstacles that made it harder for people – mostly minorities – to cast a vote. We should have put that shit behind us more than 40 years ago, and yet politicians in Florida (and Texas and everywhere, basically) are continually looking for new ways to get around that law. Those same politicians are often the ones invoking our rights to bear arms and pray to the God of our choice, but they're remarkably silent on another of our most basic rights – the one right that actually gives people a say in who governs them and how they are governed.

One of the earliest documents drawn up that led to the founding of our nation – the Declaration of Independence – compiled a list of grievances against King George III, not the least of which was the failure of the king to respect the colonists' rights to have a say in how they were governed.

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