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A History of Disenfranchised Florida Voters

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A History of Disenfranchised Florida Voters

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A History of Disenfranchised Florida Voters

A History of Disenfranchised Florida Voters

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Voters in Florida once again are at the center of a presidential nomination dispute. Essayist Diane Roberts talks about Florida's history of voter disenfranchisement and how Democratic voters there can avoid being cut out of this year's important primary election.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

HANSEN: Officials in Michigan and Florida are still trying to figure out if there's a way voters can have a voice in the Democratic presidential nomination process. The two states were stripped of their delegates in a dispute with the national party.

Native Floridian and political observer Diane Roberts says it's not the first time Florida has been at the center of an election controversy.

Professor DIANE ROBERTS (Florida State University): The cable news pundits told us our vote wouldn't count. The national party told us they'd take our delegates away. The people voted anyway - voted in record numbers. Voted, thinking that Florida with its unfortunate history of electoral screw-ups would not again be the redheaded stepchild of American democracy.

In 2000, we had dangling chads, the missing ballots and the all-too present lawyers. (Unintelligible) from both parties protested outside our courthouses. Banana Republics compared Florida to a Banana Republic. The whole world was watching and what the whole world saw was disenfranchised Florida voters. And that wasn't the first time.

In the presidential election of 1876, Democrat Samuel Tilden won a majority of the popular vote nationwide. In Florida, Tilden led Republican Rutherford B. Hayes by around 100 votes. The Republican-controlled state canvassing board threw out enough votes to make Hayes the winner. Up in Washington, national party bosses cut a deal. The federal troops, which had occupied the South since the end of the Civil War would be withdrawn.

So what if a few ballot boxes were stuffed? Hayes won the White House by one electoral vote.

What now? The Democratic National Committee blames the State Democrats. They broke party rules when they held Florida's primary too early. So, do we give up and accept we're shutout of a world changing nomination process? Sue somebody? Make Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama go to Disney World and face off outside Cinderella's castle in a best of seven-game of rock-paper-scissors? Nobody wants to cuff off 25 million for another full-dress primary. But we must find a way to do it right, make it fair. Let Floridians back into American democracy. We could vote again by mail. I'll even buy my own stamp.

HANSEN: And Diane Roberts's latest book is "Dream State: Eight Generations of Swamp Lawyers, Confederate Daughters, Conquistadors, Banana Republicans and Other Florida Wildlife."

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