Fabiola Santiago

Where have we seen Trump’s ‘repugnant’ voter witch hunt before? In Scott’s Florida

President Donald Trump listens to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, during a meeting with U.S. mayors and governors at the White House in Washington on June 8, 2017.
President Donald Trump listens to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, right, during a meeting with U.S. mayors and governors at the White House in Washington on June 8, 2017. AP

It’s not surpising that President Donald Trump feels comfortable in Florida, a state the real estate and golf mogul likes to call his “second home.” The state’s GOP leadership and Trump are on the same political wavelength; they’re true soul mates.

The governor, his cabinet, and legislators may not be as chatty as the president, who has no qualms about exposing his juvenile-bully nature for the world to behold, but their silence may be worse. They work in the shadows — brazenly so during the last legislative session — and have perfected the art of spin to sell their destructive ideas to a populace too eager to have its fears of the other soothed and its prejudices confirmed as truth.

In the case at hand — a national voter witch hunt instigated by Trump — their modus operandi was at first silence, and now, partial compliance.

Most other states, in an unusual bipartisan alliance, immediately refused to hand over to Trump’s Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity the sensitive voter information the panel requested — including Social Security and driver license numbers that would be a treasure trove for identity thieves.

Florida officials say they’re not sending those numbers, but they will turn over data that’s part of the public record. The wishy-washy response is typical of a state where civil liberty issues have taken a back seat during the last seven years of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration and a GOP-dominated Legislature.

The president’s voter suppression efforts ring familiar.

Trump created the panel in May after repeatedly asserting, without any proof whatsoever, that voter fraud cost him the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton. That studies and voting officials across the nation have found no evidence of widespread fraud didn’t stop Trump from stoking doubts based on a false premise, and then taking action.

In a similar vein, lack of evidence didn’t stop Scott from attempting a 2012 voter purge too close to the presidential elections and in advance of his re-election race in 2014. Like Trump, who won Florida by a narrow margin, Scott didn’t walk away from that election with a mandate. He defeated Democrat Charlie Crist by only 64,145 votes, a margin of 1.07 percent.

It’s hard for people like Trump, Scott and their supporters to accept that not all of America is as xenophobic, paranoid and uncaring of the poor and disadvantaged as they are — so they think the rest of the voter rolls must be full of fraudulent voters instead of registered Democrats.

The goal in this new inquisition, as in Scott’s purge, is not to preserve the sanctity of American elections but to instigate fear and keep black and Hispanic voters and other minorities who tend to vote Democratic away from the voting booth. If the interest were in electoral integrity, they wouldn’t be deflecting from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election to favor Trump — and his campaign’s possible collusion with a foreign power. But Trump and his administration are doing just that at every available opportunity.

The voter probe is one of those — and it should anger everyone equally, regardless of party affiliation. The panel is compiling a national database of names of registered voters, addresses, those last four Social Security numbers people use to confirm their identification in sensitive transactions, voting history, felony convictions, and who knows what else.

Officials from 44 other states are calling Trump’s panel what it is: federal overreach. Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called the request “repugnant.” Vermont Secretary of State James C. Condos said it was “a waste of taxpayer money.” Liberals, Trump supporters say.

But Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann — a Republican — had the most colorful response of all.

“They can go jump in the Gulf of Mexico and Mississippi is a great state to launch from,” he said.

There’s no such courage in Scott’s Florida.

Only Democrats and select anti-Trump Republicans are standing up for voters’ rights.

Former congresswoman and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham charged in a letter to Scott that the panel was “created to stroke President Trump’s ego” — and reminded Scott of his own failed efforts at finding phantom voters.

“As your administration learned after its costly, partisan attempt to purge our state’s voter rolls, there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Florida,” Graham wrote. “With these facts in mind, it would be irresponsible to send sensitive data on Florida voters to President Trump’s phony commission.”

But to hope that Scott and his administration would take a strong stand against a Trump initiative is wishful thinking. Voter suppression is their history, too.

Trump is the Florida Republican Party’s dream president — and Scott one of his unconditional allies.

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