Did Florida Disenfranchise African-American Voters?
Religion & Liberty Online

Did Florida Disenfranchise African-American Voters?

For 159 years, the state of Florida attempted to disenfranchise it’s citizens by suppressing voter turnout. At least that’s the logical conclusion that can be drawn from the recent partisan claims about voter suppression in the state.

As part of it’s post-2000 election reforms, Florida officially implemented early voting for the 2004 election. Until then, voters had to vote absentee or on Election Day.

But as a cost-cutting measure, the state legislature passed a law in 2011 reducing the early voting window from 14 days to eight, though it extended the hours during those eight days.

Now, critics of the law are attempting to claim the change was intentionally made to disenfranchise minority voters. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic, is a prime example of the type of liberal pundits who are attempting to spark racial animus by implying the law targets African American voters:

We talked yesterday about the kind of substantive reform the GOP could make in order to diversify. Here is a good one: Stop trying to inhibit participation. Stop it. You will not make us lazy. You will only make us angry . . .

Barack Obama knew who he was talking to when he called voting the best revenge. We don’t need no high-faluting reasons to stand in those long lines. We’ll stand there just for the privilege of putting that stutter in Karl Rove’s speech, and that panicked look on his face.

Coates’ attempt to turn this into a racial issue is despicable and sullies the reputation of The Atlantic. But what’s most disgusting about Coates claim is that it condescending to African Americans. The idea that other races and ethnicities are able to make it to the polls during the 8-day early voting window but African Americans are not, is both bizarre and insulting. He never explains why the law disenfranchises only one political party, much less how it hurts one particular race. He also insults civil rights-era leaders who worked so hard to provide equal voting opportunity by making an invalid comparison:

People don’t understand that the attempt to disenfranchise broad swaths of the American population is actually in this country’s living memory. People have not forgotten.

No, they have not forgotten. Which is why this particular claim is likely to backfire on those, like Coates, who attempt to confuse this current legislation with actual efforts to disenfranchise citizens. The American people aren’t stupid and they resent efforts to fan racial animus for partisan purposes, as Coates is doing.

Voting is one of America’s most essential liberties, which is why we must protect that liberty for all citizens, regardless of race, creed, or party. Claims about disenfranchisement, therefore, must be taken seriously. That can’t happen when we have influential pundits spreading lies about voter suppression in the African American community. Whether we’re Republican or Democrat, black or white, no American should tolerate such dishonest claims. They are harmful not only to Florida, but to the republic.

Joe Carter

Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).