Sunday, August 26, 2012

Rick Scott Threatens Firing of Elections Supervisor for the Crime of Encouraging More Voting

Crossposted as a Recommended diary on DailyKos

The Florida Keys elections supervisor is a man named Harry Sawyer. He represents Monroe County, is a lifelong Republican, and has held this seat for 24 years. Rick Scott threatened him a few days ago.

First, let me catch you up.

Florida's new Jim Crow laws cut early voting everywhere in Florida with one exception: the five counties that require federal preclearance due to their history of discrimination under the Voting Rights Act.

Rick Scott and his GOP minions are doing everything they can to limit opportunities to vote. In particular, they specifically ended the decade-long practice of being allowed to vote the Sunday before the election. You can vote the day before AND after, but NOT that Sunday. Why that day? Because that is the day that has the highest turnout for Latinos and African-Americans in this state: 30% of African-Americans voted that day in 2008. Churches organize a "Souls to the Polls" effort to get everyone in their congregations to the polls to vote: especially the thousands without cars or transportation, and those who have to put in long hours during the work week with several minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet. (Getting rid of that Sunday was such a victory for the GOP that I have heard it gleefully referred to as "Color Free Sunday").

Jim Greer, the former FL GOP chairman who was later kicked to the curb, talked openly about GOP strategy sessions to curb minority voting. Greer said the GOP in Florida has essentially given up on garnering minority votes, so it instead decided to limit their participation. This included a DEC 2009 meeting he spoke about in a court deposition:

“I was upset because the political consultants and staff were talking about voter suppression and keeping blacks from voting.”

One could have easily figured this out regardless, with the GOP legislature passing ridiculous laws such as putting a 48-hour deadline on registration forms (that had massive fines attached for each one received late), purging voters (87% minority), and significantly cutting early voting times.

But a federal court has said that the five Florida counties that fall under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, including Sawyer's Monroe County, could NOT limit the times that it has cut in every other county in Florida. The state failed to prove its case that limiting the hours wouldn't hurt minority voters (ya think??).

Rick Scott's voter suppression team, including Secretary of State Ken Detzner, (the last Secretary of State resigned in disgust over Rick Scott's voter suppression BTW), desperate to limit the days, proposed to have the five counties keep the shorter time span of only 8 days of early voting BUT keep the polls open 12 hours a day in those counties. They would accept longer voting hours as long as the days could be curbed, including the Sunday before election day.

Since it is technically the same amount of hours, the Court said they would agree ONLY if the supervisors of elections in each of those 5 counties all agreed. Rick Scott's Secretary of State held a conference call and tried to bully the five supervisors. Four out of five agreed, except for Harry.

He said the old early voting days worked great, and this new ploy would be less effective, disenfranchise minorities, and would also cost Monroe County taxpayers more in overtime pay. On the conference call the Secretary of State even admitted that their ploy would cost a lot more money.

Harry Sawyer was disgusted by the phone call, and said that the attempted suppression was not the legacy he wanted to leave.

The court clearly said that all five supervisors had to agree. Harry Sawyer said NO.

Rick Scott responded exactly how you would expect a criminal to respond. He decided to threaten to fire Harry if he didn't play ball. Scott promised to take "all necessary and appropriate action" to ensure that the days of voting are limited, and if that meant removing an elected Supervisor of Elections, he was prepared to do it.

Ironic. The Teabaggers in this state who claim to masturbate to the Constitution are very silent about practicing our fundamental right to vote. Yet this lone Supervisor of Elections is the only elected GOP official I have seen standing firm and fighting for our fundamental right to vote.

Harry retires this year, so Rick Scott's threat to remove him is pointless. It needs approval by the State Senate, and they don't convene until next year. However, Rick Scott could still cause havoc, such as possibly suspending Harry from his position.

Part of me hopes he does. Rick Scott is just tone deaf enough to make a martyr out of a fellow Repbulican who refuses to disenfranchise the very citizens he is standing up for; a man who is already becoming a national voice against the GOP's mission of voter suppression.

No doubt it would end up in court, as many of Rick Scott's initiatives do (costing us a ton of taxpayer money in the process). But the result oftentimes is Rick Scott getting humiliated. (This is why he is keen on attacking our courts). Usually Rick Scott is given a humble reminder from the bench that Florida is not one of his corrupt corporations where he can play CEO. He works for us, not the other way around.

So go ahead. Make my day, governor.

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