Former Congressman Alan Grayson: the time has passed for Democrats to play nice
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06/06/12 Liz McKibbon
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Democrats rally to discuss new voter restrictions and other issues facing the middle class


photo by Liz McKibbon

Florida officials appear to be continuing the fight to purge non-citizens from voter rolls this election cycle. Democratic and human rights activists gathered at the Marriott in St. Petersburg last night where former Congressman Alan Grayson blamed Republicans for a lack of solutions.

Community leaders lectured to a standing room only crowd of nearly 100 attendees that included activists and area residents. Frank Dellert heads the Committee for Voter Rights as a member of Occupy Bradenton.

“The Justice Department, I talked to them yesterday in Washington DC, and the Justice Department is not going to let them get away for all that they want to do. But at least they’ve stopped the fines for the early voting and getting them in within 48 hours to the registration. And you have to do that. The League of Women Voters is gonna [sic] be back and they can now register voters again.”

The League announced today that they will once again mobilize efforts to register voters after more than a year of stagnation, due primarily to 2011 changes in Florida voter laws. The group suspended third party voter registration drives because of a provision of the law that required forms to be turned in within 48 hours or risk hefty fines. That provision has now been overturned in court. Darden Rice is president of the St. Pete area League of Women Voters.

“Today, exactly, we're not doing voter registration , but we’re asking our members to sign up to be voter registration volunteers for the League. So we’re getting ready. Over the next few weeks we are going to be training our volunteers to conduct registration according to the new requirements, and we will be working closely with the local Supervisor of Elections when possible.”

Supporters of the stricter laws assert the regulations will decrease voter fraud. Democratic opponents say the rules are a partisan roadblock, unfairly effecting liberal-leaning and independent voters that isn’t even needed. A Brennan Center for Justice study shows that voter fraud is uncommon. And according to the Orlando Sentinel, the last major voter fraud case involved absentee ballots. But supporters of tougher voting laws aren’t making changes to that. At a Brandon Chamber of Commerce event last week, Republican Florida Senator Ronda Storms contended that absentee ballots aren’t the problem.

“I saw the challenges to each individual absentee. That was done. And incidentally – or maybe not incidentally - challengers were primarily the democrats that were challenging military votes.”

Former Orlando-area Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson was the keynote speaker of the event. He says the focus for Democrats should not be to play nice with Republicans, but instead to find solutions to middle class problems. Grayson turned heads on the floor of the House when said that the Republican healthcare plan is “don’t get sick, and if you do, die quickly.”

“And across the board its exactly the same thing. If you don’t have a job, go drive a taxi. That’s the Republican jobs plan. What’s the Republican education program? Study. What is the Republican housing plan? Move into your car. They simply don’t even take a stab at answering the fundamental problems that we face. And when we get down to it, the reason why they hate government so much is because they’re so bad at it.”

And Democrats are at a financial disadvantage. Many people think that Republicans just plain have more money to give. Grayson ran for Congress in a longstanding Republican central Florida district. He said he faced huge outside spending nationwide from Republicans.

“In Orlando, among the Republican incumbents, two third—more than two thirds almost three quarters of all the money they raised was from Corporate Political Action Committees. We didn’t raise a single dollar in the last quarter from Corporate Political Action Committees and nevertheless outraised everybody else. In the past 9 months, our campaign has raised more money than any challenger campaign in the entire country and also more money than 99% of the current members of congress.”

Grayson says he takes a more grassroots fundraising approach. $2 million has been raised so far for his re-election campaign, but the average contribution is only $42.

“It turns out that if you do the math, 50,000 contributors contributing $40 a piece, actually works out more than 10 PACS contributing $10,000 each. Quite a bit more actually.”

Chardonnay Singleton is with the Florida Consumer Action Network. She agrees that a boots on the ground strategy is key for Democrats.

“If there is [sic] enough people who get mobilized to actually go out into their neighborhoods and talk to people about why it’s important to get registered, and also educate them on how they are trying to suppress people on voting, then I definitely feel like the campaign can be successful. And more people will be—or less disenfranchised and things will work out better.”

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