New Florida election law stirs up controversy
The new GOP voter suppression laws in Florida put a teacher in danger for registering voters in her Civics class.
OMFG! Imagine that ! Teaching students in civics class how to register to vote! It’s got to be a plot from the new world order!
The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School’s student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote.
Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida’s new and controversial election law.
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.
Republican lawmakers who backed the rules said they were necessary to reduce voter fraud. Critics — including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who testified before a congressional committee — said the law would suppress voter participation.
The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to block implementation of the law. The most controversial elements are under review in federal court before they can be implemented in five counties.
Fear of violating the new rules prompted the League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration efforts in Florida. Local political activists in both parties have been similarly stymied, Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall said.
“It’s bizarre,” McFall said of the law. “I haven’t found one person who likes this law.”
When McFall heard the story of the New Smyrna Beach teacher at a staff meeting this month — and realized her office would have to report the incident to the state as a potential violation — she had a sick feeling in her stomach.
“This isn’t someone who was going to commit fraud,” McFall said. “She was doing a good thing. New Smyrna Beach High School was doing a good thing.”
But Cicciarelli hadn’t registered with the state before beginning the registration drive. And she didn’t submit the forms to the elections office on time.
In the absence of willful fraud or someone’s voting rights being denied, it seems unlikely she would face a fine. Since the law took effect in July, the state Division of Elections has issued only warnings. No incident has been turned over to the attorney general’s office for enforcement, said Chris Cate, a spokesman with the secretary of state’s office.
“We’ll review it, go over the facts and decide whether to forward it,” Cate said.