New Smyrna Beach High School Jill Cicciarelli is an excellent civics teacher who has been teaching for many years. But she is also a criminal. Her crime? Helping her students register to vote.
This wasn't a crime last year, before Rick Scott. In fact, Mrs. Cicciarelli helps her senior class EVERY year with the paperwork to preregister for the voting rolls. But she was on maternity leave in the spring when the Legislature passed a a new voter suppression law that, among other things, requires third parties to register with the state before they help sign up new voters.
Mrs. Cicciarelli is an unauthorized party. Furthermore, she waited longer than the insane new 48 hour time limit to hand in the applications.
She now is looking at a $1000 fine.
I documented all of the voter suppression tactics in this horrible GOP law in a blog post last April. The new law is the worst in the nation that somehow manages to tarnish our already poor reputation on voting rights.
For one thing, it requires likely Dem voters to receive provisional ballots (women who change their name, college students with new addresses, almost anyone who is challenged by vote caging, etc,). This is significant because the majority of provisional ballots ARE NOT COUNTED!
It forces registration of every volunteer who might want to register someone to vote. It restricts video or audio of voters at polling places (which helps teabaggers who engage in vote caging operations), and puts a ridiculous time limit on registration forms. Fines are minimum $50 per late application!
Then there's the politicizing of the supervisors of elections, cutting early voting, curbing citizen intiatives... and as you are about to see, ridiculous regulations imposed on election supervisors that try to help people register.
All in the name of "voter fraud", of which Kurt Browning, our right-wing Sec. of State, admits he can't find ONE F&*&ING INCIDENT. Interestingly, they couldn't get one GOP supervisor of elections to name one either.
In fact, they think the law sucks too.
Ann Mcfall is the REPUBLICAN Supervisor of Elections of Volusia County who was forced to report the teacher and her students to the Division of Elections for noncompliance.
She is outraged about that... and justifiably so. I urge you to read the entire article she penned in the Daytona beach paper entitled "Voter registration law is frustrating and unenforceable" :
Traditionally, as supervisor of elections, I go out of my way to avoid controversy and conflict. My job is to implement new laws and manage elections, no matter what laws or rules may change. But legislation passed in the 2011 session was, in my humble opinion, so egregious that I felt I had to bring it to the attention of all interested citizens.
You see, she can no longer just give out forms. She is forced to keep a record and report to the state the name of everyone who picks up a voter registration form from a third-party. HOW THE HELL is anyone supposed to know that since they are usually left in stacks at libraries, post offices, etc.
She is supposed to report how many are provided, how many get processed per day, the date filled out (even though the person signing it has to date it on the form anyway), etc. The goal here is obvious... to make it ridiculously cumbersome to register to vote. That, cominbed with outrageous fines, will make sure most people don't bother.
As for the teacher, Senator Bill Nelson (D) has gotten involved. He met with the teacher, and the students. He told them that this is a "direct assault on democracy." He promised the teacher and the students that would share their stories with Gov. Skeletor and ask the law be repealed next session.
(Our other Senator, Marco Rubio (teabagger), didn't bother to assist and thinks the new law is just dandy.)
Although she faces $1000 in fines, this case has become high-profile thanks to Sen. Nelson and it is likely that this teacher will get a "warning". But Scott and his allies got their message out to the electorate: Help register people to vote, and risk getting in trouble.
They have been wildly successful with this.
The League of Women voters suspended voter registration efforts in Florida for fear of exposing volunteers to up to $1,000 in fines, and the thousands of volunteers in other nonprofits aren't risking it either.
My only hope is that those of us brave enough to register to vote and God Forbid help others to register will remember which party it was that tried to stop them.
Next year, I plan on registering as many people as I can to vote. Arrest me. I just hope my fellow fed-up Floridians will join me.