Among the victims of the Florida law: Jill Cicciarelli, a New Smyrna Beach high school teacher who last year tried to register several of her students. She had been out on maternity leave, ran afoul of the new law, and was threatened with thousands of dollars in fines. "I just wanted the kids to be participating in our democracy," she says.

More significant, these laws have had a direct impact on minorities. The number of Latinos registered to vote in Florida, for instance, has fallen by 10 percent since 2008. (Nationally, there are 2 million fewer minority voters now than in 2008.) Florida, says Howard Simon, executive director of the state's ACLU, is attempting to "gut the Voting Rights Act."

Is all this enough to propel Mitt Romney to victory over Barack Obama? Well, the president received 96 percent of black votes in 2008 and more than two-thirds of the Latino vote. And Florida is the nation's largest swing state. Many of the measures, like those in Arizona, Texas, and Minnesota, are under review by courts or face public votes in the future. "The fate of these laws," says the NAACP's Jealous, "will determine that of our country for years to come."

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