A feature, not a bug

Updated
 

The voting fiasco in Florida reached truly farcical levels yesterday, with Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, explaining, “We’re looking at an election meltdown that is eerily similar to 2000, minus the hanging chads.”

I think that’s exactly right, but there’s something Rachel explained last night on the show that warrants repeating: “This is a man-made phenomenon…. Those lines are long on purpose.”

Given Florida’s tragic reputation and history, I saw quite a bit of commentary yesterday questioning why the oft-ridiculed state “can’t get its act together.” There’s been ample talk about “gross incompetence” and Florida’s “inability to run a simple election.”

These reactions are understandable, but they’re mistaken. The early-voting debacle in the Sunshine State is deliberate. To treat this as the unfortunate result of ineptitude is to miss the point – Florida Republicans designed the system to work this way.

For Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and GOP policymakers in the state, this is a feature, not a bug. Republicans cut the number of early-voting days in half, on purpose. They prevented early voting on the Sunday before the election, on purpose. Scott, unlike the previous two Republican governors, ignored calls to expand voting hours, on purpose.

GOP policymakers want long lines; they want to make it very difficult for voters to participate in their own democracy; they want Americans to get discouraged and walk away. As one Republican state lawmaker argued after the 2010 election, “I want the people in the State of Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who is willing to walk 200 miles for that opportunity he’s never had before in his life. This should not be easy.”

This should not be easy.

This affects every voter, regardless of party or ideology, but because Republicans benefit more from lower turnout and higher disenfranchisement, this is a purely partisan scheme to rig an election in the GOP’s favor.

OK, you’re thinking, early voting in Florida has been disgraceful, but at least voting on Election Day itself will be smoother, right? Wrong – due to Republican budget cuts, there will be fewer polling precincts this year than four years ago, meaning more long lines.

I’ll just conclude with Rachel’s conclusion: “[I]t is frankly an outrage that there are forces at work in our politics right now that not only make this type of situation possible, but that make it inevitable – who see problems like this and go out of their way to try to make it worse…. If you are one of those people being forced to stand in those long lines tonight or tomorrow or on Election Day, honestly, your country needs you to do it. Your country needs you to do it, not only because it’s your civic responsibility, but also because there are people trying to profit politically off of you not doing it.”

Rick Scott and Florida

A feature, not a bug

Updated