The Republican war on voting is having a tangible impact in Florida. Jill Cicciarelli, a teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, is facing thousands of dollars in fines for helping her students register to vote.
When Cicciarelli organized a drive to get her students pre-registered at the beginning of the school year, she unwittingly violated Florida’s controversial new law which restricts third parties’ ability to register new voters.
Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot.
Cicciarelli ran afoul of the law by failing to register her voting drive with the state before beginning it, and by not submitting the necessary forms to the elections office on time.
Florida’s new law is just one of many recent Republican-backed laws that make it more difficult to register to vote and to actually cast a ballot. Supporters of the restrictive new laws argue that they will help reduce election fraud, but opponents maintain that such fraud is negligible, and that the laws are politically motivated. The recent wave of restrictive laws promises to have the largest impact on minority, low-income, and young voters (such as Cicciarelli’s students) — all of whom are more likely to support Democrats than Republicans.
Cicciarelli’s situation lends credence to the critics’ complaints; her illegal effort to engage her students in American democracy certainly doesn’t seem like an example of fraud.
In any case, Florida’s new law is certainly having an impact. Along with Cicciarelli’s transgression, the all-volunteer Florida League of Women Voters has shut down its operations out of fear of violating the new rules. Florida voters may not like their new Republican government — Rick Scott is among the least popular governors in the country — but because of the new law, it will be more difficult for them to vote it out of office.