We're old enough at The BradCast to remember when Republicans used to at least pretend to believe in things like "personal freedoms." But, now that Florida's Gov. Ron DeSantis is preparing a run for President in 2024, things are getting mighty early 20th-century German-y these days down in the Sunshine State. [Audio link to full show follows below this summary.]
The recently re-elected Governor is on a roll. Most notably, over the past year or so, he has adopted a "Don't Say Gay" law, threatening school teachers with dismissal for referencing LGBTQ issues in public schools, and, more recently, his "Stop W.O.K.E. Act" to prevent discussion of race issues and other things that the all-mighty State decides may make the parents of a white, straight child uncomfortable. Also known (ironically enough) as the "Individual Freedom Act," a federal judge recently cited George Orwell's 1984 in describing the law as "positively dystopian" as it has resulted in the state-ordered banning of library books.
But DeSantis isn't cowed by courts of law or even public opprobrium. Last Friday, his State Department of Business and Professional Regulation (apparently, Republicans now love state regulations too?) filed a 27-page complaint against The Orlando Philharmonic Plaza Foundation, seeking to revoke their liquor license. Why? Well, last December, for the eighth year in a row, they featured a performance of the popular Drag Queen Christmas national tour and "violated Florida statutes" by allowing parents to bring their children, according to the state's complaint. (So much for "parental choice," which GOPers also used to pretend to believe in.)
Perhaps all of that wouldn't be so bad, if Floridians knew they could hold elected officials accountable at the ballot box. Sadly --- and predictably --- the Governor and his henchmen in the state legislator in Tallahassee are working to make that more difficult as well. Last year, DeSantis signed Senate Bill 524. In addition to giving him a personal special "elections crimes" police force (which he immediately abused by ordering the round-up of former felons at gunpoint and on camera for "voter fraud" even though most had been told by the state they were allowed to vote in 2020), the measure also mimics a law recently adopted by Texas that resulted in a huge percentage of vote-by-mail ballots being rejected in 2022.
The new provision mandates that vote-by-mail voters include a drivers license or social security number on their absentee envelope when casting their vote. However, there's no easy way for voters to know which one of those two numbers will match the number on their registration record and ballots will be rejected without a perfect match. The Texas version of the same law --- being pushed as "model legislation" by the far-right Heritage Foundation in several GOP-controlled states --- resulted in preliminary ballot rejection rates as high as 38% in several counties during last year's primaries.
Now, the bipartisan Florida Supervisors of Elections Association, comprised of elected county elections chiefs, are pushing back against the new law. They argue unanimously in a new report [PDF] that it will result in disenfranchised voters, as well as increased costs to counties and security issues for elections.
We're joined today by ION SANCHO, Florida's legendary, former Leon County Supervisor of Elections who served in the elected position for nearly 30 years before resigning in 2016. He explains the many concerns about the new measure and why it is that election officials around the state are so unanimously troubled by it.
"Even though a majority of the Supervisors of Elections are Republicans, they cannot stomach what they see the Florida legislature doing, because it's real simple --- it's not fair," Sancho tells me. "Every Supervisor of Elections in the state can see that this is simply a partisan attack on voters that the Governor is trying to suppress. That offends them."
The new law, he fears, will be "a logistical nightmare" for election officials. "This whole process --- that we carefully spent a decade building to ensure that legal voters could cast and have that ballot counted --- is under direct threat, and by individuals who haven't a clue about how Florida elections work. Because these recommendations came from Heritage Action, the political arm for the Heritage Foundation."
Sancho is hopeful that some of the Republicans in Tallahassee will listen to the elections officials. "Because where this will blow up, the first election under these new rules," will be the state's March 2024 Presidential Preference Primary, "where you've got to two apex Republicans, possibly, on the ballot. And you don't want that election to melt down. These rules could destroy the Presidential primary in Florida. And wouldn't that put some egg on DeSantis' face."
So well respected by his peers that he was selected by them to oversee the ultimately-aborted 2000 Presidential recount in the state, Sancho charges that "Governor DeSantis has really declared war on any human being that has a different political ideology than himself. It's shocking."
Nonetheless, DeSantis, after winning in 2018 by less than half a percentage point, was re-elected to a second term by a landslide last November, even as Republicans elsewhere in the nation had a very difficult election. Why did he do so well last year? Sancho offers his thoughts on that as well today. And, yes, it has to do with the "tremendous impact" of the Governor's new special election crimes police force and a resulting "complete collapse of African-American voting" last year in the state. But that, Sancho seems confident, is likely to turn around in 2024...at least if their votes are allowed to be tallied.
Please tune in for another very clarifying and compelling conversation/warning with the great Ion Sancho today!
Finally today, Desi Doyen joins us for our latest Green News Report, with news on a disturbing chemical train derailment in Ohio; catastrophic heat and wildfires in Chile; EU's successful move away from Russian fossil fuels; and some good news about this year's global investments in clean energy sources versus those in dirty, deadly fossil fuels...
(Snail mail support to "Brad Friedman, 7095 Hollywood Blvd., #594 Los Angeles, CA 90028" always welcome too!)