The Sunshine state was at the center of an 1876 controversy over the presidential election between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel L. Tilden. By throwing out many votes cast by Blacks, Florida was able to give Hayes a one-vote margin in the Electoral College although Tilden had won the state’s popular vote by 260,000 votes.
The case reached the Supreme Court where Florida’s chicanery was also upheld by a one-vote margin. A book on the election by Roy Morris Jr. was titled, Florida’s Voting Scandal in 1876: The Fraud of the Century.
In addition, the state eliminated early voting on the Sunday before elections, a move to disrupt “Soul to the Polls” voting campaigns organized by churches. In 2008, 32.2 percent of those who voted early on that last Sunday were Black and 23.6 percent were Latino.
To make it more difficult to organize voter registration drives, Scott signed a law requiring groups registering voters to pre-register with the state and turn in voter registration forms without 48 hours of collection.
U.S. District Judge Robert L. Hinkle ruled on a suit that challenged those provisions by the League of Women Voters of Florida, Rock the Vote and Florida Public Interest Research Group Educational Fund. The groups said such requirements infringed on their constitutional rights of free speech and association.
Judge Hinkle dismissed the state’s assertion that no constitutional rights were being violated. “The assertion that the challenged provisions implicate no constitutional rights is plainly wrong,” he wrote in his decision. The plaintiffs wish to speak, encouraging others to register to votes, and some of the challenged provisions – for example, the requirement to disclose in advance the identity of an employee or volunteer who will do nothing more than speak – regulate pure speech. This is core First Amendment activity.”
The U.S. Justice Department has also objected to Florida making it more difficult for citizens to vote.
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