Ex-Florida GOP leaders: Party aimed to suppress vote

Two former Florida GOP leaders told the Palm Beach Post that a new election law in the state that curbed early voting was designed by Republicans to limit Democratic turnout. 

Jim Greer, the former party chairman, said staffers and consultants told him during his tenure that "'we've got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us.'" Concerns about voter fraud, he said, were a "marketing ploy."

Former governor Charlie Crist says he was approached during his term about limiting early voting but "didn't want them to go there at all."

A spokesman for the state party questioned Crist and Greer's credibility. The former governor became an independent in the face of a challenge from now-Sen. Marco Rubio (R) in the 2010 Senate primary. He endorsed President Obama in 2012 and appeared at the Democratic National Convention. 

Greer was indicted in 2010, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state party. He has sued the state GOP and related law firms, saying he was cheated out of his severance package.

But two Republican consultants also told the paper that the party was aiming to decrease early Democratic turnout after 2008. 

HB 1355, the election law passed by Republican super-majorities in both chambers of the state legislature, cut Florida's in-person early voting days from 14 to eight and eliminated early voting on the Sunday before Election Day. As early voters waited in line for hours to vote, a deal was struck in three counties to allow voters to cast in-person absentee ballots.

The law also put new restrictions on voter registration drives, but a federal judge overturned those provisions.

Obama won Florida by by 74,309 votes, or 50.01 percent to Republican candidate Mitt Romney's 49.13 percent -- compared to a 237,000-vote margin in 2008.

Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.

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