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Public Statements

Right to Vote Under Attack

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. DEUTCH. I thank my friend for yielding, and I thank him for the opportunity to come and join with him tonight to address an issue of great concern to many Americans.

We're here tonight because Republican State legislatures across the Nation are passing laws to make it harder for people to exercise their right to vote. The story they tell is one of rampant voter fraud that threatens the integrity of our elections and the very foundation of our democracy. It's a scary story. Imagine--just imagine--mobs of illegally registered voters entering our poll booths and hijacking our elections.

However, there is something far scarier than the story that's being told--and that's the reality. It's the reality that our electoral system is not under siege by voter fraud but, instead, by an historically deliberate and ongoing effort to suppress the votes of America's minorities, seniors, students, and other traditionally Democratic voters.

Now, while this is a nationwide trend, there is no question that the recent voting law passed in Florida takes the cake for radically infringing on voting rights. Ask any Floridian. Florida doesn't have a history of voter fraud. Florida has a history of voter suppression. This is a State that didn't ratify the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote, until 1969. This is the State where, in 2000, Secretary of State Katherine Harris eliminated 57,000 votes, mostly of minorities, simply because their names resembled those of persons convicted of crimes. They were wiped from the voting rolls. Now, our current Governor, Governor Scott, wasn't in Florida in 2000 when George Bush's legal team fought to stop counting the votes, when Katherine Harris certified election results without including the recount from my own Palm Beach County, and when the Supreme Court stopped a manual recount of votes. Florida is the State where thousands of seniors, whom I am so privileged to represent today, headed to the polls on election day in 2000 and never had their voices heard.

That was hard work. It was hard work silencing the voices of the voters. HB 1355, the Florida election law, the voter suppression law, makes it child's play.

Florida is the State where, in 2008, when Governor Charlie Crist extended early voting hours, Republican officials decried the fact that better access to voting would likely cost them the election. Now Florida is the State that is serving as a model for Republican legislatures across the country that are looking for ways to suppress turnout at the polls.

HB 1355 eliminates the ability of voters to update their addresses or names at the polls due to marriage, divorce, or even military base relocation. Those voters now have to cast provisional ballots, which will likely go uncounted.

HB 1355 also cuts early voting from 14 days to 8 because of the fact that the United States of America is one of the few democracies in the world where not declaring election day a national holiday is simply not restrictive enough.

HB 1355 also allows absentee ballots to be arbitrarily tossed out of elections because of poor handwriting. The men and women I represent who may suffer from Parkinson's disease or arthritis or from the aftereffects of a stroke will have their votes thrown out because their quivering hands make their signatures look sloppy.

Perhaps most disturbing is how HB 1355 cripples the ability of third-party groups, like the Boy Scouts and the League of Women Voters and the NAACP, to run voter registration drives. In fact, any third party, including

high school civics teachers, that offers to help students register to vote must turn in the registration forms within 48 hours or face fines.

By passing HB 1355, Florida has provided States across the country with a blueprint for the voter suppression of minorities, seniors, students, and other Democratic voters.

The voter fraud bogeyman may be a scary story, but it cannot compare to the very real and very blatant voter suppression efforts of Republican legislatures across America. Perhaps, because they know they can't win fairly, they need to suppress voters, not because of imaginary voter fraud, but because of real Americans--real Americans who have seen the true colors of a Republican agenda that ends Medicare, that slashes education, that eliminates jobs, and that limits economic opportunity for working families. Real Americans have had enough, and they have the right to express themselves by exercising the most basic, the most fundamental right in our Nation--the right to vote.

I thank you for organizing this opportunity tonight for us to make very clear to all who are watching that we won't let them take that right away.


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