Ex-Republican Leaders in Florida Say the Party Tried to Suppress Black Votes

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 26 2012 7:29 PM

Ex-Republican Leaders in Florida Say the Party Tried to Suppress Black Votes

I'm a bit late to this Palm Beach Post investigation, but please, read the whole thing. Not huge news at this point: Former RPOF Chairman Jim Greer and former Gov. Charlie Crist saying that the GOP wanted to cut back early voting to supress black voters. Still news: the other Republicans backing it up.

Wayne Bertsch, who handles local and legislative races for Republicans, said he knew targeting Democrats was the goal.
“In the races I was involved in in 2008, when we started seeing the increase of turnout and the turnout operations that the Democrats were doing in early voting, it certainly sent a chill down our spines. And in 2008, it didn’t have the impact that we were afraid of. It got close, but it wasn’t the impact that they had this election cycle,” Bertsch said, referring to the fact that Democrats picked up seven legislative seats in Florida in 2012 despite the early voting limitations.

Lots of on-record Republicans deny this. But who believes them anymore? In 2004, as we learned only after the election, the Bush campaign sent mail to Democratic-voting neighborhoods, seeing if it would bounce back, to knock voters off the rolls. (This is a classic tactic, one Buddy Cianci used to win in 1990). Before the 2000, the state's Republicans approved a heinously flawed purge of voter names; it repeated this in 2012, before the flaws overwhelmed the process.

Republicans held on to legislative control in two of the states where they pushed through voter ID laws or voting day rollbacks -- Wisconsin, Florida, Ohio. But it's hard to think of another election year when these laws, which usually enjoy 70 percent-plus support, became so controversial. Minnesota voters got an up-or-down veto over their new law, and they struck it down. In Florida, you're looking at a possible 2014 race where the newly liberal Crist revs up South Florida black voters again by reminding them that the state took away early votes on the Sunday before election day. And you've still got a DOJ that's going to weigh in against the states that pass these laws.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 


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