Voting Rights in the State of Florida

By: Victoria Langley
By: Victoria Langley

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are kicking off a voters’ rights bus tour of Florida. They’re urging voters to be on the lookout for dirty tricks leading up to Election Day, like thousands complained about in 2000, but Republicans say this pre-emptive strike may end up backfiring.

Florida’s Congressional Black Caucus is taking their voting rights tour on the road. Kendrick Meek chairs the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Florida. He says the group is warning voters to watch out for dirty tricks. Some may try to discourage them from voting.

“We’re going to make sure every vote counts, not just African American votes in Florida, but every vote in Florida,” says Meek.

The Democrats point to possible voter intimidation tactics like police outside polling places. They’re concerned about poll workers who don’t advise voters of their rights, but Republicans say this pre-emptive strike isn’t fair to voters. It uses the bad vibes of the 2000 Election to scare people about problems that haven’t happened yet.

Mindy Tucker, a Florida Republican, says, “It creates an atmosphere where things are hostile, things are called into question when they shouldn’t be and I think it does a disservice to voters.”

But the Black Caucus says there are plenty of current examples; stacks of voter registrations that appear to have been checked “Republican” after they were filled out, phone calls telling voters to use their sample ballot instead of a real ballot, African American seniors in Orange County interrogated by police after the primary.

Rep. Corrine Brown, (D) Florida, says, “That smack of Jim Crow, that’s from the old school. Most people would not believe that’s going on in 2004 in Florida in the United States of America.”

Advocates on both sides say a voter’s best defense is knowing your rights before you cast your ballot. The voters’ rights bus tour continues through Florida, stopping in Gainesville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami over the next four days.

The Black Caucus is urging voters to take advantage of Florida’s new early voting law, which allows you to vote in your county courthouse starting Monday.

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