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Daniel Tilson: Floridians must unite to fight voter suppression

Last week there was yet another example of the enduring, unethical effort by forces in our Florida government to make it harder or impossible for some of us to vote. 

This time around, college kids are the targets.

Students at the University of Florida in Gainesville thought increasing civic engagement at their publicly owned school was a worthy goal. So they asked the city to ask the state to designate their on-campus Student Union as an early voting site.

The Division of Elections, under the authority of Gov. Rick Scott’s appointed Secretary of State Ken Detzner, turned down the city’s request.

From the students to the non-partisan Polk County Supervisor of Elections and many others statewide, the decision was met with shock, dismay and anger.

State Sen. Jeff Clemens sent Detzner a letter saying that as a member of the senate committee which crafted a 2013 law allowing places like UF’s Student Union to be used as early voting sites, he considered this an “unlawful decision”.

Unlawful is one thing; and like other attempts at voter suppression in recent Florida history, confirmation of that may have to come in court.

But isn’t it high time already, in the Main Street court of public opinion, for all Floridians near and of voting age to unite in vocal, active opposition to the inherent wrongness of any government official tampering with our voting rights and disrupting our elections?

After all, this latest controversy comes as Scott and Detzner are launching a hotly contested new 2014 voter purge program, targeting traditionally Democratic-leaning black and Hispanic voters.

This is a variation of the program that cost Florida taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars before being declared illegal by the courts shortly before the 2012 elections.

You remember Election 2012, right? Well, what the hell, to recap:

The revealed strategy of the Republican Party of Florida was to use its control of the Legislature and governorship to prevent as many Democratic voters from voting as possible.

They cut early voting days by half (including “Souls To The Polls” Sunday that historically turned out so many black voters), blocked voter registration, concocted a long and confusing ballot, declared eligible voters ineligible, and more.

But the strategy overreached and backfired. Florida courts stepped in and overturned parts of their plan. Then, outraged Florida voters stepped in and overturned the rest, waiting hours and hours at the polls, and voting Democratic.

Last year featured some legislative repair of the 2012 damage, yet here we are heading into critical 2014 midterm elections for governor and the entire Legislature, facing the same funny business all over again.

But it’s not funny.

And it’s not simply about Republican officials being afraid they can’t win fair and square and trying to suppress Democratic turnout.

It’s about an attack on our individual freedoms.

Sure, for a while now in Florida it has specifically targeted Democratic voters.

But if you’re not a Democrat or don’t fall into one of the recently targeted groups, if you therefore think you can let it go and it won’t ultimately hurt you too, think again.

Because it preys on our apathy, and what it really targets is our Democracy.

You might be a Tea Party Republican, a conservative Independent, perhaps a disengaged or unregistered voter. Doesn’t matter. By sitting idly by while Big Government officials target any of us for unduly losing voting rights, you’re putting us on a path to fascism.

If ever there was a non-partisan, purely civic “call to arms” that was critical for all citizens to heed and answer affirmatively, this is that call.

 A New York University graduate, Daniel Tilson owns a Boca Raton-based firm, Full Cup Media, offering “a la carte” and custom-bundled packages of communication services.

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