Jesse Jackson comes to Tampa to bash new elections bill

In a speech, the former presidential candidate spoke about social justice issues that had nothing to do with the voting bill, saying things like, "While we were based in slavery, whites were based in indentured servitude," referring to the plight of coal mine workers in Appalachia.

At times he had the audience, which was broken up into a community meeting room with the lawmakers that was by invitation only (and was stifling hot without any air conditioning), repeating his chants as if in church, which he later literally was, crossing to the sanctuary after his speech.

Jackson was invited to Florida by the Reverend Charles McKenzie, a member of Jackson's Rainbow/Push Coalition. He made two appearances in Orlando and Eatonville in the past 24 hours, and stressed how people needed to be organized for next year's election, saying, "Less Facebook - more face to face."

Jackson was relatively mum when asked by the Tampa Tribune's William March if he had any thoughts about the Fair District Florida amendments that were created to represent fairer legislative and congressional voting districts next year (a black Democrat, Congresswoman Corrine Brown, has joined Republican Mario Diaz-Balart in suing the state over the bill)."Suffice to say we want the Voting Rights Act to self protect, which is easy access to voting, and make sure the lines represent the broadest possible representation."

As Jackson was inveighing against the elections bill, Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee leader Deborah Cox-Roush spoke in support of the bill, using the language that its proponents used in the spring in Tallahassee - that it prevents fraud at the polls.

While, publicity seekers from out-of-state are here making claims about our laws, I wanted to take a moment to address the rationale for the new, elections law. This law, HB 1355, makes great strides to ensure the integrity of each vote cast in Florida. Opponents ignore voter irregularities and seem ready to wait until rampant fraud exists before taking the necessary precautions. That's like waiting until a bank is robbed before installing a new alarm system.

Some are ready to look the other way as our most important institution - the ballot box - becomes more at risk for fraud. They wrongfully claim this law will suppress voting in our state, but actually the law applies an equal protection to ALL Floridians; not any one group or ideology. Because of this law, every Floridian can know that the integrity of the vote in Florida is secure.

Jackson says there is a "plan to suppress the vote," echoing comments made recently by former President Bill Clinton, who has said that recent voting law changes throughout the state are reminiscent of Jim Crow laws and poll taxes that discriminated against black voters.

He criticized specific provisions of the new laws around the country as "schemes to marginalize the vote that could determine the outcome" of next year's election.

The controversy over the elections bill passed by the Florida Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott earlier this year is only getting stronger, as the Reverend Jesse Jackson came to Tampa on Tuesday afternoon to promote voter registration and denounce the legislation.

HB 1355 shortens the number of early voting days, makes it harder for third party registration groups to sign up new voters, and will deny people who moved out of their previous county from voting on a regular ballot. Democrats have blasted the bill, claiming those provisions (which advocates say are necessary to prevent voter fraud) are singling out their own voters in the crucial 2012 presidential election. And the Florida ACLU has filed a lawsuit against it.

Speaking at the 34th Street of God in East Tampa (where former Hillsborough County Commissioner and Tampa City Council member Thomas Scott preaches each Sunday), Jackson spoke in front of a group of local Democrats (including Alex Sink, state Senator Arthenia Joyner and other state and local lawmakers) and other supporters.


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