Mike Bennett on wanting to make it harder for Floridians to vote

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Bennett went on to say that "I want them to fight for it. I want them to have to walk across town to vote."

When the Senator made those comments in real time, Florida political bloggers and other observers lit up Twitter with his comments, mostly in incredulity, reacting to the seeming tone deafness of his remarks.

Bennett was defending SB 2086, sponsored his Senate colleague representing Miami, Miguel Diaz de la Portilla , and specifically against the charges by Senate Democrats that the bill would make it harder for people to vote in Florida.

Bennett's take was (apparently) that it's too easy for voters to participate in the franchise in the Sunshine State. And compared to the days when there wasn't early voting, perhaps he's right. As Diaz de la Portilla would frequently say defending the bill, early voting is not in Florida's constitution.

But of course, those of us who've been here for the past decade know exactly where the idea for early voting came from : It was part of the many electoral reforms that the Florida Legislature passed in the wake of the 2000 presidential election. You remember, that election which frequently has the adjective "debacle" placed alongside any description of the voting, where "irregularities" were exposed as the whole world watched during the 36-day recount in November and December of 2000.

Bennett has made no secret in recent weeks of his desire to take on Kathy Castor in what he presumes will be a friendlier for Republicans redrawn House District 11 next year for Congress.

Presumably, Castor will use Bennett's remarks as "bulletin board material" as they say in the NFL; The Tampa Tribune already is, as they slam the state legislator for his remarks in an editorial written on Monday. The last sentence in the editorial reads:

All legally registered voters are entitled to vote. It is not up to Bennett or anyone else to determine if American citizens possess the prerequisite "passion" to participate in the democratic process.

The issues of why Floridians (and Americans) overall don't vote in the same percentages as some other nations is something that columnists locally have mused over a lot in recent months, especially in the wake of the paltry numbers of Tampa citizens who came out to vote in both the primary and runoff elections for mayor earlier this year. When Bennett invokes those in Africa or other nations where the citizenry is seen during an election eagerly waiting in line to vote, the comparison to the lack of voting participation among American voters is a vexing and troubling issue.

But the Senate bill won't do anything about that - other than knock off voters who have moved out of the county where they are presently registered and will neglect to inform their local supervisor of election prior to going to the polls next year. Those voters will be out of luck in terms of having their vote matter.

Supporters of the bill also boast that the same amount of actual hours to early vote is in the new law - 96 hours - though of course it's spread out over fewer days.

We look forward to hearing the Senator discuss his comment to voters on the campaign trail in District 11 next year.


During a discussion in the Florida Senate last week on the controversial elections bill that, among its other features would reduce early voting in Florida from 14 days to eight, Bradenton Republican state Senator Mike Bennett said he was proud to make it harder for Floridians to vote.

The Senator said, "I have to tell you: I don't have a problem making it harder. I want people in Florida to want to vote as bad as that person in Africa who walks 200 miles across the desert. This should not be easy. This should be something you should do with passion."

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