Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Ousted Florida Republicans, including ex-Gov. Crist, say voter suppression was state GOP's goal

From Daily Kos: Ousted Florida Republicans, including ex-Gov. Crist, say voter suppression was state GOP's goal
The former chairman of the Florida Republican Party and former Gov. Charlie Crist, along with two of the party's consultants, say the Grand Old Party curtailed early voting in the state for the express purpose of reducing turnout by Democrats. Although citizen advocates have been saying for more than a year that such efforts in Florida and elsewhere were intended to hurt Democrats at the polls, these insider comments are the strongest evidence yet of the GOP's unAmerican shenanigans directed at curtailing the vote. Not just of Democrats, but of African American voters.

Dara Kam and John Lantigua at the Palm Beach Post quoted Jim Greer, the former state Republican chairman:

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” Greer told The Post. “It’s done for one reason and one reason only. … ‘We’ve got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ ” Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants. [...]

“They never came in to see me and tell me we had a (voter) fraud issue,” Greer said. “It’s all a marketing ploy.” ...

“The sad thing about that is yes, there is prejudice and racism in the party but the real prevailing thought is that they don’t think minorities will ever vote Republican,” he said. “It’s not really a broad-based racist issue. It’s simply that the Republican Party gave up a long time ago ever believing that anything they did would get minorities to vote for them.”

The law that was passed in 2011 with supermajorities of Republicans in the Florida legislature cut early voting days from 14 to eight, placed restrictions on voter registration efforts that were so onerous the League of Women Voters stopped its efforts in the state and made it more difficult for voters who changed counties between elections to vote, a move that affected minority citizens more than whites.

Greer is under indictment for a campaign fundraising scheme that allegedly put $200,000 into his pocket. He claims party officials knew what he was doing and didn't object and he has sued them for money he says they owe him. The party's current chairman says anything Greer says should be viewed in light of the indictment. In fact, Greer made similar allegations last July during a court hearing on his lawsuit.

The problem with the current chairman's line of defense is that Crist backs up what Greer says. And so do two current GOP consultants, one of whom didn't want his name used:

Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.

“In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn’t have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn’t the impact that they had this election cycle,” Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.

Crist said that after he extended early voting hours by executive decree in 2008, some Republicans told him, "You just gave the election to Barack Obama.”

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