Dear Mr. Lenny Curry,
I don't want to play the cynic here, but your friends over at the Capitol made one heck of a mess last November. As chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, I hope you can help them out.
Gov. Rick Scott, the rest of the Cabinet and the Republicans in the Legislature tried to defeat Barack Obama in a campaign that included a stab at voter suppression. He won re-election easily, and Florida helped — even if it took a while.
We're still trying to live that down.
More astoundingly though, you all did something historic, a political feat I'd never thought I'd see in my lifetime. You guys helped boost the nation's turnout rate for black voters to the point where it apparently exceeded that of whites.
Don't take my word for it. That's the conclusion of the Pew Research Center. According to its analysis, black voters apparently outperformed their white counterparts in the 2012 election. Blacks made up 12 percent of the eligible electorate, but accounted for an estimated 13 percent of all votes cast. Something similar occurred in 2008.
"Those participation milestones are notable not just in light of the long history of black disenfranchisement, but also in light of recently enacted state voter identification laws that some critics contended would suppress turnout disproportionately among black and other minority groups," the report read.
My, how far we've come.
I grew up in an era where most blacks living in the South couldn't vote because they couldn't answer impossible questions from poll workers, such as how many bubbles are in a bar of soap, or they couldn't change the color of their skins to participate in all-white primaries.
Back then, it was the Democrats who feared the black vote, and they were creative in suppressing it. Literacy tests, grandfather clauses and poll taxes" — and outright intimidation if all else failed.
Now, it's the party of Lincoln that finds itself on the wrong side of history.
Prior to the November election, the all-Republican Florida Cabinet made it more difficult for ex-felons to get their voting rights restored. Gov. Scott followed up with a decision to purge the state's voter rolls of "non-citizens." Republican lawmakers did their part by passing HB 1355, an elections reform bill, that restricted early voting and curtailed third-party voter registration. The governor signed it into law, but many felt the legislation sidestepped the real fraud, which is in absentee ballots, and focused on areas where fraud didn't exist.
In Ohio, the GOP nixed weekend access to the polls, an option that used to result in a flurry of get-out-the-vote efforts by black Democrats, dubbed "Souls to the Polls." In Pennsylvania, Republicans imposed restrictive photo ID requirements that systematically pushed many black elderly and low-income voters out of the process, and then openly bragged about it as a means to help Mitt Romney win the state.
Democrats in general, and blacks in particular, got the message, and they turned out to the polls in droves.
By now, the lesson should be clear. Suppressing the vote proved counterproductive. You would have been better off if you simply had left well enough alone and allowed apathy to set in. But, no. You guys just couldn't help yourselves.
I know you've been inundated with suggestions to either tweak the message, go after Hispanics or woo women. Here's another: back off the voter-suppression bit and support a more open voting process.
House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz are talking about making changes to HB 1355. That's a start. You should encourage them and use your position to get your counterparts in other swing states to follow suit.
2014 will be here before you know it. Drop the provocative politics and open up the elections to the point where everyone's vote counts, and the process once again gets taken for granted.
It's not too late to do the right thing, even for the wrong reasons.
A Concerned Columnist
Douglas C. Lyons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 954-356-4638. On Twitter@douginflorida.