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Staff posted on November 26, 2012 20:33

Florida voters brave long lines via AFPFormer Florida GOP leaders: Election laws meant to suppress Democratic voters

Former leaders of the Republican Party of Florida claim new election laws in the state were aimed at suppressing Democratic turnout on Election Day — not fighting voter fraud.

Republicans across the nation have pushed for restrictive voting laws in the name of fighting voter fraud. Democrats have alleged that GOP-backed laws limiting early voting, ending same-day registration and requiring photo-IDs to cast a ballot were cynical attempts to impede Democratic voters, an allegation Republicans have since now denied.

Jim Greer, the former head of the Florida Republican Party, told The Palm Beach Post that a new law shortening the early voting period in the state was intended to prevent Democrats from voting. Greer said that since at least 2009, GOP staff and consultants had discussed limiting early voting hours, which they believed helped Democratic candidates. He described current talk of eliminating voter fraud as a “marketing ploy.”

Former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist of Florida confirmed that GOP officials had sought to limit early voting in an effort to suppress Democrat turnout. He told the Post that the effort seemed to be aimed at ethnic minorities, a key demographic for Democrats.

“The sad thing about that is yes, there is prejudice and racism in the party but the real prevailing thought is that they don’t think minorities will ever vote Republican,” Greer said. “It’s not really a broad-based racist issue. It’s simply that the Republican Party gave up a long time ago ever believing that anything they did would get minorities to vote for them.”

In response to the allegations, Florida Republicans pointed out that both men are now at odds with the party. Greer resigned as chairman in 2010 after being accused of stealing money from the Florida Republican Party. Crist ran for the U.S. Senate as an independent candidate in 2010. However, Greer and Crist’s statements were also backed up by GOP consultants, who didn’t wish to be named.

The Republican-led Florida legislature in 2011 voted to cut the number of early voting days from 14 to eight. As a result, some voters in Florida were forced to wait hours before casting a ballot. The law also placed restrictions on third-party voter registration organizations, but a federal judge later struck down those specific provisions.

“I am appalled but sadly not surprised by these officials’ admissions that their goal was purely to suppress the African American vote,” Elder Lee Harris, the pastor of Mt. Olive Primitive Baptist Church in Jacksonville, said in a statement. “Even while cloaked in the dubious language of ‘voter fraud,’ the real reason for these measures was always clear. African Americans in Florida knew that, and we fought back – by voting.”

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