Republicans watching third-party voter groups

Liberal activist groups in Florida say their efforts to register voters are overcoming Governor Rick Scott’s attempt to remove non-citizens from the polls — they report that their third-party voter registration groups have registered 50,000 new voters this year.

St Johns County Republican Party Chairman Harlan Mason told Historic City News that the reduction in early voting days included in HB 1355 and the governor’s effort to rid non-citizens from the voter rolls were measures aimed at ensuring the integrity of the vote — not at suppressing demographics that don’t favor them.

HB 1355 is an elections law passed by Republican lawmakers that imposed hefty fines and restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. It took effect in May 2011.

Democrats disagree with Mason and the Republican Party of Florida. They say women, college students and minorities are being affected by the actions aimed at dampening turnout among traditional Democratic voters.

“Florida New Majority and the coalition partners are making inroads so that record numbers of black, Latino and other minority people once again will vote during the early voting period and on November 6, 2012,” Gihan Perera, executive director of Florida New Majority told reporters in a conference call reported yesterday. “The attempts to suppress voters and make registrations harder in Florida were a blow to the heart of democracy.”

Republican Party of Florida spokesman Brian Burgess said that the new voter registration law didn’t reduce the number of early voters in the August primary when compared to the presidential election four years ago.

As of today, of St Johns County’s 151,789 registered voters, there are 80,751 registered Republicans, 38,557 Democrats and 32,481 with other party affiliations, or registered without any party affiliation.

The parties in St Johns County have until Tuesday to sign up new voters — the last day before Supervisor of Elections Vicky Oakes has to close the voting rolls before the November 6 election.

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