Political Correction

As Obama Jumps In Florida Polls, Gov. Scott Signs Bill Hampering Voter Registration

May 31, 2011 1:57 pm ET - by Kate Conway

Gov. Rick Scott

With an astonishing 57 percent disapproval rating, Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) is one of the least popular governors in the country. "I didn't come here to be the most popular," he said in March after an initial set of dismal numbers showed only 32 percent of Florida voters thought he was doing a good job. Since then, he's backed up his dismissive statement by pursuing unpopular and ill-advised policies that have sent his ratings spiraling further downward, leaving him with just a 29 percent approval rating as of late May.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, "Scott's job-performance numbers mirror public sentiment about the state budget, which cuts spending on schools, health care and programs for the environment." And before signing the budget last week, Scott used his line-item veto to cut out an additional $615 million in spending on things like state universities, public television and radio stations, vaccines for new mothers on Medicaid, and a center that helps domestic violence victims.

President Obama's approval rating in Florida, on the other hand, is soaring, up to 51 percent from 44 percent last month. Both the most recent gubernatorial and presidential elections were close — Obama won Florida in 2008 by only 2.8 percentage points, and there were just 1.3 percentage points between Scott and his Democratic opponent.

Perhaps Scott bore these margins in mind as he signed a recent "voter fraud" bill into law. Purportedly to prevent fraud in Florida's elections, of which there is very little actual evidence, the bill enacts a number of measures that make voting more difficult — particularly for groups that tend to vote Democratic.

A sweeping bill passed by the GOP-controlled State Legislature and signed recently by Scott makes it harder for third-party groups such as unions and the League of Women Voters to launch voter registration drives. 

Critics say the law, which also cuts the number of days for early voting, will hinder the ability of students, African-Americans and Hispanics to cast their ballots. These groups traditionally favor Democrats, which could mean the law will undercut President Obama's reelection effort in the Sunshine State.

The law imposes a $50 fine for each voter application that groups fail to turn in within 48 hours, a penalty steep enough that the League of Women Voters has said they won't take the risk.

Back in March, Scott reinstated a rule requiring felons to wait five years beyond the conclusion of their sentences before they can apply to regain the right to vote. Coupled with this latest law, one has to wonder why Scott is motivated to pare down the voter rolls instead of encouraging all of his constituents to exercise their right to vote.

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