You will have to forgive me if I think that access to the voting booth—or being able to actually cast a ballot—isn’t always a given on Election Day. I was raised in Florida and now I live in Cook County, Illinois. Neither location has the best reputation for voting access.
Rick Scott (R), the beloved or beguiled current governor in Florida, might have asked himself that question back in 2006. He was only allowed to cast a provisional ballot that year because the registration rolls showed he was dead. In fact, the deceased Rick Scott was his father. But doesn’t this one fact already underscore the fact that voter registration rolls aren’t adequate enough?
Apparently, that isn’t the lesson that Scott learned. The governor is instead seeking to purge the state’s registration rolls of ineligible non-citizens whom he believes are pervasive enough to warrant such an intervention. Scott has thumbed his nose at the Department of Justice’s concerns that his plan might actually disenfranchise legitimately registered voters, similar to his own 2006 experience at the polls. In a state that holds so much political weight in a presidential election year, this is the sort of effort that is simultaneously baffling and transparently political.
According to Reuters, the Scott administration has defended the plans—saying that provisional ballots for accidentally deleted voters work. But those votes must be verified by election officials within 30 days of the election—creating more paperwork and logjams for state workers to deal with, when there will undoubtedly be legitimate issues to deal with on Election Day. While provisional ballots do technically work, they do not work as well as real ballots, as Scott’s own experience illustrates. Because of the extra work they generate, they should not be the go-to solution for addressing issues of accidental disenfranchisement, either.
But that accidental disenfranchisement shouldn’t even be an issue because the entire foundation of the registration roll purge is non-existent. It would be one thing to address voter registration rolls with a heavy hand if voter fraud was rampant. But the Brennan Center reports that voter fraud only occurs at a rate of 0.0004%.
Maybe I’m not an expert, but that seems like a low enough percentage to ignore for now. In fact, what should be more concerning is the low rate of voter turnout in general—just under 62% during the 2008 presidential election. That means 38% of eligible voters did not vote. And those are just the folks who manage to be registered.
Scott’s effort—while blatantly political and aimed at delivering Florida to the GOP in November—needs to be called out. Not for being political or somewhat sinister, but for being the exact opposite of good voting policy. We should never make it harder to vote than it already is, especially in Florida. Every vote should count on Election Day. Here’s to hoping that they actually will.