By Carl-John X Veraja
Last year, Rick Scott signed House Bill 1355 in Florida, creating conditions that discourage third party voter registration. It requires third parties to register with the state and turn in signed forms within 2 days of registering people to vote under the threat of a $1000 fine.
Occupy Fort Myers has responded by directing people to register themselves, since the means to do so are online.
Gary Lang was among volunteers stationed at Centennial Park. They were equipped with a laptop, printer, pens, envelopes, stamps, a clipboard, and donuts.
“It was necessary to raise awareness about the voter suppression laws that have been passed in the state of Florida,” Lang said. “They severely clamped down on third party voter registration in the state of Florida and we felt that was wrong. Rather than deliberately breaking the law and paying the consequences, we would circumvent the law and illustrate how juvenile their law actually is if there’s such an easy way around it.”
Lang said penalties imposed on third party voter registration have caused groups like the The League of Women Voters to stop voter drives.
“They feel its too much to ask their people to bear,” said Lang.
I asked him to take me through the process as if I had come to register.
“I’d ask if you were a U.S. citizen or a convicted felon who has had their rights taken away,” said Lang. “If you are, there’s no point. If you are a US citizen and not a convicted felon, I would ask you if you wanted to vote. If you answered in the affirmative, I would direct you to the printer. I would print you out a voter application form which you’d take from the printer, take one of these little pens here, and a clipboard, and fill it out to the best of your ability. Then you’d receive an addressed, stamped envelope which you’d be directed to the take to the post office.”
Did any of this violate Bill 1355?
“We are remaining within the letter of the law, as we understand the law–as we’ve been advised,” said Lang. “Even though the intent is to circumvent the law.”
Voter suppression has been demonstrated to increase the possibility of Republican wins in elections.
The rationale for voter suppression is the threat of voter fraud.
Between 2008 and 2011, there have been only 3 arrests related to voter fraud in Florida. It seems more likely you will be struck by a falling coconut that then causes you to fall into an alligator’s mouth than that you will commit voter fraud.
The drive continues until 7 PM this evening.