Judge Slams Rick Scott’s Florida for ‘Obscene’ Disenfranchisement

by Joan McCarter –

Rick Scott

The courts are not looking kindly at Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s multiple efforts to keep people—primarily Democrats—from voting. Last week, his refusal to extend the voter registration deadline in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew was denied, and voter registration continues into this week. Then on Sunday, a federal judge ruled that the state must allow absentee voters to verify their signatures and have their votes count.

U.S. District Judge Mark Walker’s ruling was a victory for the Florida Democratic Party and the Democratic National Committee, which sued the state Oct. 3 arguing Florida canvassing boards shouldn’t immediately reject a ballot if a voter’s signature doesn’t match the one on file. The state gives voters who forget to sign their mail ballots a chance to fix the problem before Election Day—but doesn’t offer voters with mismatched signatures the same opportunity. […]“It is illogical, irrational, and patently bizarre for the State of Florida to withhold the opportunity to cure from mismatched-signature voters while providing that same opportunity to no-signature voters,” he wrote. “And in doing so, the State of Florida has categorically disenfranchised thousands of voters arguably for no reason other than they have poor handwriting or their handwriting has changed over time.” […]

“In our democracy, those who vote decide everything; those who count the vote decide nothing,” Walker wrote. Then he referred to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on obscenity that quipped, “I know it when I see it.”

“Likewise, this Court knows disenfranchisement when it sees it and it is obscene.”

He ordered the state to notify voters with problematic signatures in 67 counties and allow them to sign an affidavit affirming their signature. State Democrats had sued over the practice, citing an analysis conducted by a University of Florida political science professor “showing about 1 percent of all Florida mail ballots were rejected in 2012—about 23,000 out of about 2.3 million cast,” and that in the 11 counties he studied Democrats were more likely than Republicans to have rejected ballots.

It’s irrational, to say the least, to allow voters who don’t sign their ballots to have the chance to fix it, but to not allow people with messy handwriting to fix theirs. It’s, as Walker says, obscene.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos