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COLUMN

Happytown

Photo: Art by Elne, License: N/A

Art by Elne


Locally, outside the Orange County headquarters of the Republican Party of Florida, an afternoon delight of chanted bullhorn protesting erupted on Thursday when about 100 progressives scared the living daylights out of the one scraggly woman working in the office. She ended up calling the police – who didn't mind the protest so much, as it was a peaceful affair at a strip mall – and then she called in some other Republican who demanded a police escort to get into the building. Nobody was hurt, of course.

But in Florida, there are even more hilarious repercussions than Obamacare conga lines. You may recall that last summer, state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, managed to get a state constitutional question – Question One, even – on this November's general-election ballot. That proposed amendment would "prohibit laws or rules from compelling any person or employer to purchase, obtain or otherwise provide for health insurance." We reached out to Plakon for his take on where this latest development leaves his banner amendment. The answer: It's basically just a public poll now.

"Question One can't be removed; that question will be asked," he says. "If it succeeds, that could perhaps be used in a future legal case. I don't believe this is over yet." Also, he now gets to nail his Democratic opponent on "the largest tax increase in the history of humankind." Orange County Democratic Executive Committee Chair (and state Rep.) Scott Randolph finds the debacle kind of funny. Citing the clause in the ACA that allows states to opt out if they can guarantee coverage to all citizens, Randolph wonders how far Republicans will go with their health care grudge.

"Rick Scott and the Florida legislature would have to pass something more progressive than the individual mandate," he laughs. "Single payer, maybe?" If only!

While everybody was busy debating the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act, the news about another important federal ruling got quietly shoved aside. On June 27, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Hinkle handed down a decision allowing the state of Florida to carry on its flawed and controversial voter purge. The U.S. Department of Justice, as you may recall, filed suit in court to halt the purge, claiming that it violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits states from enacting systematic voter-roll purges within 90 days of an election. Florida's primary election is scheduled for Aug. 14 – less than two months away.

Hinkle ruled that the law doesn't apply to non-citizens, and that since the state's purge was only targeting non-citizens, it was A-OK to scrub away. Hinkle, however, seemed to have missed the point – the reason this purge is causing such a stir is not because it might stop illegal voters from voting, but because the state is basing its purge on incomplete and faulty data that's got both legal and illegal voters getting thrown off the rolls. The state's logic has been that a few inconvenienced voters are just collateral damage in the larger fight to rout out non-citizen voters.

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