This editorial appeared in The .
Among the 125 million Americans who voted in the presidential election this year were millions who were voting for the first time, including young adults and minorities. The attraction for many was the campaign of Barack Obama, the presence of Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential candidate and the historic nature of the election. For the first time, either an African-American man was going to be elected president, or a woman was going to become vice president.
Let us hope that these new voters will remain engaged, committed participants in this great democracy. They should be welcomed by all. This is why it was troubling to hear some Florida Republican lawmakers criticizing Gov. Charlie Crist for pushing reforms so that ex-felons can regain their voting rights and for extending early-voting hours last month. In both cases Gov. Crist was right. He showed himself a champion of democracy.
These were the same GOP lawmakers who have tried to pass laws that make it harder to vote. They succeeded in tamping down nonpartisan voting drives by groups like the League of Women Voters by making even innocent mistakes in registration subject to huge fines. They passed the "no match, no vote" law in which a voter's personal information must exactly match state driver's license files or federal Social Security records. If not, the voter must cast a provisional ballot and has two days to clear up the discrepancy. The simplest clerical error – and bureaucracies have many of them – can trip up an unsuspecting voter. The Legislature also limited early-voting polling places and schedules.
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