Palm Beach Post: Former Florida Republicans admit 2011 election laws motivated by suppression of likely Democratic voters

Former top Florida Republican officials have admitted that suppressing the turnout of minorities and likely Democratic voters was the motivation behind a 2011 election law that significantly reduced early voting and made it more difficult for third-party organizations to hold voter registration drives, the Palm Beach Post reported this week. 

Read more: Florida’s early voting marred by 6-hour long lines & bomb scare

The Republican-dominated state legislature passed H.B. 1355 under the guise of preventing voter fraud. Among other things, the omnibus elections bill cut the in-person early voting period from 14 days to 8 days, including the Sunday before the election.

Jim Greer, the former Florida Republican party chairman, told the Palm Beach Post that GOP consultants and political operatives wanted to condense the early voting period because “early voting is not good” for Republicans.

In 2008, President Barack Obama won the vast majority of African-American and Hispanic votes in Florida. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, African-American and Hispanic voters made up a large share of Floridian voters who cast their ballots early, particularly on the Sunday before an election.

Read more: List of Florida State Senators who voted to shorten early voting by 7 days and List of Florida State Assembly lawmakers who voted to shorten early voting by 7 days

African-American and Hispanic early voting turnout in Florida. SOURCE: Brennan Center for Justice

“The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,” said Greer, who has been indicted for allegedly stealing money from the Florida Republican Party. “They never came in to see me and tell me we had a [voter] fraud issue…It’s all a marketing ploy.”

Greer’s assertions were supported by former Republican Governor Charlie Crist, who served from 2007 and 2011.

Crist also told the Palm Beach Post that he was approached by Republican party leaders about changing early voting. Although the conversations weren’t explicitly about suppressing African-American voter turnout, Crist said “it looked to me like that was what was being suggested. And I didn’t want them to go there at all.”

H.B. 1355 also imposed harsh penalties on third-party organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, that fail to abide by the new 48-hour deadline (condensed from 10-days) to submit voter registration applications collected during voter registration drives.

The new regulations forced the League of Women Voters to suspend their operations in Florida until a federal judge blocked the implementation of H.B. 1355’s third-party voter registration requirements in May.

Read more: Justice Department sues Florida over voter purge

Yesterday, the Republican Party of Florida posted a rebuttal of the voter suppression allegations made by Greer and Crist, questioning the credibilities of the two former Republicans.

“Even if Mr. Greer was telling the truth, as Chairman of the RPOF at the time, the buck stops with him. He should have fired anyone suggesting voter suppression as a valid tactic. The fact is, he never did anything about it because it never happened in the first place,” according to the Republican Party of Florida. “[Crist] hand-picked Jim Greer to lead RPOF during the time Greer was allegedly defrauding the organization and participating in alleged voter suppression meetings [and] has his own ax to grind against RPOF after leaving the party to avoid losing a primary election.”

The League of Women Voters of Florida has called on Republican Gov. Rick Scott to form a bipartisan task force to reform the state’s election system after “Florida’s general election disaster.”

“Identifying and taking steps to remedy Florida’s election process will help our state regain its national reputation and increase our competitiveness for forward-thinking businesses,” wrote Deirdre McNab, President of the League of Women Voters of Florida. 


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