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COLUMN

Happytown

The week where we realized that voting rights were intended to be a ball of confusion before we dropped our yogurt over a long-overdue arrest. You take the bad, you take the good.

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All right, it's now officially safe to say that Florida's reputation regarding election-law pratfalls is now officially sealed as a spiderweb trapped in a clusterfuck disguised as a circus. Sure, we've covered this over the past year, futilely beating our chests and screaming into vacuums about voter identification, voter registration, voter purges, early voting and every other iteration imaginable on the issue of suffrage, but now – having just survived yet another August primary – we can only predict that the next 12 weeks are going to be a greased ballot-slide likely to turn 2012 right back into the embarrassment that was the Bush v. Gore nightmare of 2000. And somehow, "We told you so" doesn't cut it anymore.

In the waning hours of Aug. 16, the three presiding judges of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia finally said what everybody already knows: that cutting the number of early voting days down from 12 to eight is, in fact, racist. How racist? "In sum, Florida is left with nothing to rebut either the testimony of the defendants' witnesses or the common-sense judgment that a dramatic reduction in the form of voting that is disproportionately used by African-Americans would make it materially more difficult for some minority voters to cast a ballot," the ruling reads, according to the Tampa Bay Times. The federal judges ruled on the Florida early-voting law for the five Florida counties covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So it's likely the state will have two different laws as far as early voting goes: Those five counties get to keep it the old way (12 days) while the rest of us – Orange County is not one of the minority counties covered – are stuck with eight.

If all of this sounds both abstract and confusing to you, it's meant to be. This latest move joins an avalanche of triangulated information regarding the Sunshine State's inability to be fair about fairness at the polls. On Aug. 14, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner announced the dawning of yet another voter purge, this time based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security database and not just, well, suspiciously ethnic last names. Additionally, we still have Democratic Congresswoman Corrine Brown's lawsuit regarding early voting up for a Jacksonville hearing next month. Everything is up in the air, and the election is only 12 short weeks away.

Orange County Supervisor of Elections Bill Cowles says that, while early voting was stronger than in 2008, the early-voting tallies from last week's primary – like, whether black citizens were unduly affected by the shorter early-voting period – hasn't quite been figured out yet. And as for the purge, he says it basically depends on when the list is provided to him and whether the proper notice (letters, confirmations) can be executed legally. "The weeks are running out," he says.

Orange County Democratic Executive Committee Chairman (and outgoing state Rep.) Scott Randolph says that the party has shifted its focus from early voting to absentee ballots, noting that 25 percent of absentee ballots filed by Democrats on Aug. 14 were from first-time voters. But aren't absentee ballots exactly where Republicans typically point their noses and bark "voter fraud"?

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