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Accusations of voter suppression growing in Florida

6:17 PM, Nov 27, 2012   |    comments
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Former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer

St. Petersburg, Florida -- More shocking allegations today from the former chairman of Florida's Republican Party, Jim Greer.

Greer is now naming names and getting specific about his former colleagues and their alleged effort to what he calls "suppress the Democratic vote" in Florida.

Those long lines at the polls this month were no accident, says Greer, and he claims the effort goes all the way to the top.

10 News first broke this story in August, and  now former Governor Charlie Crist and a GOP consultant have also been quoted as part of a growing chorus accusing Republicans of intentionally trying to keep Democrats from the polls.

"I felt it was important for voters and citizens to know what goes on behind the curtain of the Republican Party," Greer said Tuesday on CNN.

As the former Florida Republican Party Chair, Greer says it was never about fighting voter fraud, but rather a concerted effort that started around 2008 to keep minorities from the polls.

He resisted the pressure as party chair, says Greer.

"When those consultants and legislative leaders approached me about putting forth election changes to the law that would benefit the Republican Party, I didn't agree to it," he said.

But in 2010 with Charlie Crist out and Governor Rick Scott in as Governor, Greer says the voter suppression effort had support at the top.

"Governor Scott and the current and past legislative leadership, they believe in winning at all costs," said Greer.

Greer himself faces trial in February. He's charged with stealing $200,000 from the GOP while leading it.

Brian Burgess, a spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida describes Greer is an unreliable source, one who is disgruntled and bitter.

"Everyone he says he met with says it never happened. He's making it up. You have to consider the source," said Burgess.

Burgess also disputed the allegation based upon voter turnout.

"If what he says was true, it was the worst conceived plan -- under his leadership by the way -- that I've ever heard. Because we had record turnout of total voters."

Former Governor Charlie Crist, once a Republican but now independent, is no political ally of Greer's. But on the GOP voter suppression issue, he's equally critical.

Crist has blasted Governor Rick Scott and GOP lawmakers for passing House Bill 1355.

"Let's call it what it is. It's not right. And the legislature went along with it. But only one person had the power to sign an executive order to do away with this, and Governor Scott didn't do it," Crist told MSNBC.

USF Political Science Professor Seth McKee says voter turnout may have been even greater had it not been for the GOP's efforts. Republicans, he says, can try to disparage Greer and Crist, but the election results may indicate a voter backlash already under way.

Voters were told and once believed the purging of voter rolls was a good idea, aimed at curbing voter fraud. Now having seen the long lines and more, that may be changing.

"I think that message is now trickling down to the voters and they know it has nothing to do with fraud," said McKee.

The issue could get a lot bigger and a lot more political.

Six members of Congress -- all of them from Florida -- had written to the U.S. Commission on Civil rights by Tuesday afternoon asking for a special hearing to investigate the allegations of voter suppression.  

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