Florida to People of Color: Don't Vote Here

A Tampa, Fla., polling station (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
A Tampa, Fla., polling station (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida and dozens of other states have passed or debated onerous changes to their voting rules since 2010. ColorLines, in an article representing part of its Voting Rights Watch 2012 partnership with The Nation, tells the story of what it says is the very clear racial impact of restrictions, especially when it comes to voter-registration drives.  


Despite the risks, 63-year-old LaVon Bracy, profiled in the piece, is just as determined to conduct one through her church as she was to brave violence to integrate a white high school during the civil rights era:

Bracy's beating was so traumatic that she stayed home from school for the next three days wondering whether to go back. But in the end, she returned. Bracy told the Voices of the Civil Rights project, "I refused to allow them to win."

That was her thought this spring, too, as she plunged the New Covenant Baptist Church — the Orlando congregation she leads with her husband — into a voter registration campaign more dangerous than it has been in a generation.

In May 2011, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law HB 1355, a bill that once again put Florida at the center of the national debate over free and fair elections. The law dramatically changed the rules for both early voting and voter registration, creating a process so complex and legally risky that groups like the League of Women Voters opted out of registering in the state altogether …

If reinstated, Bennett's bill could unravel years of work by voting rights activists like Bracy to tear down the barriers that discourage African-Americans, Latinos and young people in particular from participating in our democracy. The law mandated for the first time in Florida’s history that people who conduct voter registration drives must themselves register with the state before signing up new voters. Once they register a new voter, they have forty-eight hours to submit that registration to the county under exacting specifications. Late or improper applications can result in stiff fines or even felony fraud charges and jail time. These requirements were burdensome enough to scare away even national groups with sophisticated processes for ensuring their registrations are valid. As the League of Women Voters' Florida chapter president, Deirdre McNab, told MSNBC’s Al Sharpton, "These new laws frighten people from registering voters."

Read more at ColorLines.