Thurston battles Republican war on voting
By Lucius Gantt
State House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston has made protecting voting rights a centerpiece of his campaign for Attorney General. He says he would take a dramatically different approach than Rick Scott and Pam Bondi.
“Since they were elected, the Republican leadership in Tallahassee has engaged in a war on voting,” said Thurston. “From restoration of rights to the 2012 election debacle to redistricting, there is a concerted effort to drown out the voices and will of the people.”
Thurston pointed to the disenfranchisement of ex-offenders as an area he would make changes. According to the Sentencing Project, one out of every five African-Americans in Florida does not have the right to vote. Before 2010, Thurston held multiple seminars helping ex-offenders get their rights restored.
He emphasized the recent efforts by Republicans to circumvent the Fair Districts Amendment to the Constitution. In 2010, voters passed a constitutional amendment that required the state legislature to draw legislative districts without regard to partisan makeup.
In a scathing opinion, Tallahassee Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ruled that the map violated the Amendment and ordered the legislature into special session to fix it. On the House floor during special session, Thurston argued for a clear and transparent process while Republicans pushed through a bill written behind closed doors.
“Taken alone, the actions of Republicans over the last four years are concerning,” said Thurston. “Taken together, it is a clear effort to rig the rules of the game to their benefit. It is nothing less than an attack on the democratic system and the rights of citizens. The only way to fix it is to get out and vote. We have to show them that they can’t drown out the voice of the people.”
Voters will have their first opportunity Aug. 26. Thurston is running in the Democratic primary. The General Election is Nov. 4. If elected, Thurston would be the first African American Attorney General.