Online Advocacy Coordinator, ACLU of Florida
Here at the ACLU of Florida, we get no shortage of people who want to tell us that we’re destroying America. But it rarely comes from such an unassailable authority as the leader of the Colbert Nation himself, Stephen Colbert.
Our Executive Director Howard Simon was interviewed in the most recent episode of The Colbert Report when, as part of a recurring series on “People Who Are Destroying America,” Colbert featured the story of a Florida teacher who was fined $1000 for registering students to vote and not immediately turning the registrations in.
The proponents of the law that she was fined under like to argue that it’s about preventing “voter fraud.” As Howard explains to Colbert, voter fraud is all-but-imaginary in Florida, and it’s just a scary word used to marginalize people. But for pointing that out, well…
The segment is, frankly, hilarious, but it highlights a real and dangerous threat to the bedrock of our democracy – the right to vote.
The high fines for failing to turn in voter registration forms in less than 48 hours was one of many regressive changes to Florida elections law passed by the legislature in what’s come to be known as the Voter Suppression Act of 2011. The ACLU of Florida is currently challenging the law in federal court, arguing that the provisions in it that make it harder for Floridians to have their votes counted, harder to cast a ballot, and, as the teacher in the Colbert segment discovered, harder to register to vote.
In fact, within a few hours of the Colbert segment airing, the United States Justice Department filed a report contending that the state had failed prove that the Voter Suppression Act was not a violation of the Voting Rights Act. It’s now up to the federal court in the District of Columbia to determine the fate of the Voter Suppression Act.
The teacher in the clip is just one of countless Floridians who will have their right to participate in fair and open elections violated by the Voter Suppression Act. And if challenging that makes us the “People who are Destroying America,” then I guess that’s what we are. Watch ACLU of Florida Executive Director and “casual man” Howard Simon defending our right to vote on The Colbert Report.