The Voting Wars across America seem lately to be two steps forward, one step back. In Florida, where long lines, blocked voters, robocalls with misinformation and elderly voters denied water reinforced the state’s electoral notoriety last November, Gov. Rick Scott appears to have seen the light. Earlier this week he endorsed a number of electoral reforms, most notably expanding early voting, including the Sunday before Election Day.
In 2011, Scott signed into law HB 1355, which was engineered by a Republican lobbyist and passed purely by Republican state legislators that shrank the early voting period from 14 days to 8 and stripped away the Sunday before Election Day, which was the day that black churches banded together for “Souls to the Polls” to increase voter turnout. I reported on the ugly results of that during election season.
“We are encouraged Gov. Scott is finally joining Mi Familia Vota, Florida New Majority, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Advancement Project and many others in advocating for the expansion of early voting and early voting sites,” said Judith Browne-Dianis, co-director of the civil rights nonprofit Advancement Project. “Gov. Scott’s actions today are an important step but more work remains. While the governor has taken a step forward, his actions are a floor and not a ceiling for the work that must be done to guarantee full access to the franchise and truly restore democracy in Florida.”
Meanwhile, in Virginia, where Gov. Bob McDonnell recently endorsed the need for voting rights to be automatically restored to nonviolent felony ex-offenders, his general assembly did not follow his lead.
A state House subcommittee killed legislation that would have granted automatic restoration of rights to those convicted of nonviolent felonies. Both Virginia’s Attorney General and Secretary of the Commonwealth testified before the committee in favor of the restoration bill, but it wasn’t enough. McDonnell said that he was “disappointed” in their vote.