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Attempt to restrict absentee ballots in Florida is voter suppression

December 5, 2013
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This is the transcript of this week’s “From the Pages of Orlando Weekly” spot on WMFE 90.3 FM. You can listen to the spot on WMFE’s website.

It seems the assault on voting in the state of Florida will never end. At least not under the Gov. Rick Scott administration. Just as the dark memories of the 2012 election season began to fade, we learned this week that Scott’s Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, issued a statewide directive to supervisors of elections, telling them that they must bow restrict the locations where absentee ballots can be received.

Just six weeks before a primary election in Pinellas County, Detzner insisted that the places where that supervisor has been collecting absentee ballots for the past six years – libraries and tax collector’s offices, as well as at the supervisor of elections office itself – would no longer do. Moving forward, he said, the only place absentee ballots can be accepted is at the supervisor of elections offices. In a state where more than 25 percent of the ballots cast in the 2012 presidential election were absentee, the sudden change in the rules could have a significant impact on elections results.

Though Scott and Detzner perhaps thought they could sneak this new rule in under the radar – after all, who’s thinking about absentee ballots in December? – it didn’t quite work. Supervisors of elections across the state were stunned and outraged, and they’re protesting the new restriction. In Pinellas, the supervisor of Elections said she would not abide by the directive in January, with no time to prepare people for the change. As a result, Detzner quietly backed down and told her she could carry on as planned. But as of this writing, he still had not rescinded the statewide decree.

As Sen. Bill Nelson has said of the move, it’s a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist. And Nelson’s right, unless, of course, that problem is too that many people’s votes are at risk of being counted.

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