When Craig Lowe won a run-off two years ago to become Gainesville's first openly gay mayor, many hailed it as a landmark of tolerance in conservative Central Florida. But not the local county's GOP chairman. He saw Lowe's election, he says today, as a victory by a vast liberal conspiracy to use college students to "steal elections."
That GOP chairman now admits that the main reason he helped push through the voting law that lead to agonizingly long lines during the presidential election was to keep college kids away from the polls.
Alachua County's GOP chairman, Stafford Jones, tells the Miami Herald this morning that blocking college students in Gainesville from local elections was his main motivation for pushing changes to provisional balloting.
That change was one of the most ridiculous pieces of Rick Scott's widely derided 2011 voting reforms. Under the new rules, voters registered in a different county had to cast a time-consuming provisional ballot.
Previously, they could have just cast a regular ballot after workers checked a statewide database. Election workers say they literally never heard of a single case of someone trying to vote in two different counties.
And the new rule -- which led to the absurd sight of poll workers phoning around the state to check that the voter hadn't already voted in the other county and a 25 percent increase in provisional ballots -- was "like pouring sand into the gears of the machine," an election official tells the Herald.
So if there was no problem with people voting in multiple counties and the change gummed up polling lines, why did the GOP support it? Take it away, Stafford Jones:
"The liberals do a good job of bringing in college kids to vote on local issues," Jones tells the Miami Herald. "The kids vote on raising our taxes, but don't have to live here to pay the consequences."
Most Gainesville students kept their voter registration in their home towns while casting ballots in Alachua. Jones (probably correctly) figured the new rule would discourage voting.
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So he encouraged his buddy, Rep. Dennis Baxley, to push for the provisional ballot rule, and Baxley says Lowe's election was a prime motivator. "It wasn't right for people to move in and steal an election like that," Baxley tells the Herald.
Yeah, how dare punk college kids try to get involved in democracy in the place where they live 10 months out of the year! That's not what our Founding Fathers would have wanted.