Rep. Frederica Wilson Has A Plan To Circumvent Voter Suppression In Florida (VIDEO)


We intend to continue to shine a bright light on efforts by Republican-controlled states to roll back those rights – rights won with blood, sweat and tears by the heroes and sheroes of the Civil Rights Movement.  We’ve had guests every week on this program to tell you what you can do to make sure you’re not kept out of the 2012 election.

Today, we’re joined by a congresswoman who is beating the drum in her home state, Congresswoman Fredericka Wilson of Florida.

Welcome to “Washington Watch.”

REP. FREDERICKA WILSON:  Thank you, Roland.  It’s a –

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

REP. WILSON:  — pleasure to be here.

MR. MARTIN:  [I’ve] got to ask you first, how many hats do you have?

REP. WILSON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Okay.  First of all, folks at home, this is – this is your signature, just like former alderman Dorothy Tillman in Chicago.  How many cowboy hats do you have?

REP. WILSON:  I have too many.

MR. MARTIN:  No, no, no, no.  There’s a number.

REP. WILSON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  You know every woman knows how many shoes she has –


MR. MARTIN:  — and you’ve got to know how many hats you have.

REP. WILSON:  I d- — I have no idea, and I’m asked that question –

MR. MARTIN:  More than –

REP. WILSON:  — every day.

MR. MARTIN:  — a hundred?

REP. WILSON:  Oh, definitely.

MR. MARTIN:  More than 200?


MR. MARTIN:  More than 300?


MR. MARTIN:  Man!  That’s a lotta hats!

REP. WILSON:  [Laughs.]  That’s a lot of –

MR. MARTIN:  You[‘ve] probably –

REP. WILSON:  — hats.

MR. MARTIN:  — got a whole house just for hats down there in –

REP. WILSON:  I have –

MR. MARTIN:  — Florida.

REP. WILSON:  — a room.

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah.

REP. WILSON:  Just for hats.

MR. MARTIN:  It must be a huge room.

REP. WILSON:  It’s pretty big.

MR. MARTIN:  Yeah, I thought so.

REP. WILSON:  [Chuckles.]

MR. MARTIN:  Let’s talk about voter suppression.  Florida has one of the strictest voter I.D. laws, and so what are you doing in that state to let your constituents know, and others know, “Look.  Laws are in place, but we’ve got to be able to have” – “ge-” – “to get around them” – around those barriers?

REP. WILSON:  Well, Roland, I am the vice chair of the Florida Democratic Party, and as a result of that, I have rolled out a whole plan to go around voter suppression, because I know it’s going to affect minorities.  It’s going to affect college students, poor people and the elderly.  And so we have kicked off a “vote from home” campaign.  We’re not calling it “absentee ballots,” because people don’t like that.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

REP. WILSON:  So, it’s “vote from home.”  And we have a postcard that you can mail today to be placed on the list to get an absentee ballot when it’s time for them to be released.

MR. MARTIN:  Now, let’s –

REP. WILSON:  And we’re going to –

MR. MARTIN:  — let’s talk – talk about that.

REP. WILSON:  — um-hum?

MR. MARTIN:  With these laws, they are saying that if you come to the polls – and, look.  A lot of Black folks symbolically like hav- – loving to go in and cast that ballot.

REP. WILSON:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  They also don’t trust the U.S. mail system, but that’s a whole ’nother story.  But to get around that, if you don’t have a voter I.D., if you cast an absentee ballot, no – no I.D. needed.

REP. WILSON:  No I.D. needed.  And we’re doing it with churches.  This is nonpartisan.  We’re not talking about any candidates.  We’re just talking about your constitutional right to vote, and that’s all we’re talking about.  And so we’ve lined up churches all across Florida.  At the convention, we had 50 pastors from Orlando, about 50 from Miami.  We had them from Jacksonville.  We had the president of Florida – of Bethune-Cookman University, Florida Memorial University, because we know it’s going to affect these kids also.  We’ve got to get them appropriately registered so that they can get a[n] absentee ballot, so they – so that they can vote from home.  And we’re asking the churches to make sure – because we used to have “Souls to the Polls,” and that would be the Sunday prior to voting.

MR. MARTIN:  Right.

REP. WILSON:  In Florida, they’ve taken that away from –


REP. WILSON:  — the early voting.

MR. MARTIN:  — so in Florida – same thing happened in Ohi- — Ohio until they actually pushed that measure back.  They saw the turnout in 2008 at – on Sunday –

REP. WILSON:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  — before the election, and so they changed the law to block vo- — early voting the Sunday before the election?

REP. WILSON:  Right.  We called it “Souls to the Polls,” and we made sure the churches came to vote; and, you know, we had a barbecue and hot dogs, and it was just a big celebration on that Sunday.  However, when they realized that, no more.  You can’t vote no – earl- — early voting stops before then.

MR. MARTIN:  A- — and this is the point –

REP. WILSON:  But we’re –

MR. MARTIN:  — that I –

REP. WILSON:  — we’re going around that.

MR. MARTIN:  — this is the point that I keep making, and I said to my – to my Republican friends – I said, “Show me an example where you’re trying to expand the right to vote” –

REP. WILSON:  They have none.

MR. MARTIN:  — “versus suppress.”  To me, barring early voting the Sunday before the election is – is – is clear as day you want to suppress the vote.

REP. WILSON:  And also, identification – picture I.D.s at the place of voting.  We found out – we had a job fair the other day, and we had people there giving – you know, issuing I.D.s.  It costs $30 to get a[n] I.D. in Florida and to get your license changed.  Your address must match.  And so we know our college students move around.  We know they don’t live in the town where they’re going to college –

MR. MARTIN:  Bu- — but also –

REP. WILSON:  — and so[?] all kinds –

MR. MARTIN:  — if you go to a –

REP. WILSON:  — of things.

MR. MARTIN:  — private school – Bethune-Cookman or Florida Memorial – those are not state schools.  Right?

REP. WILSON:  Right.

MR. MARTIN:  So, your state I- — your – those student I.D.s can’t be used to vote.

REP. WILSON:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  It has to be a state I.D.  So, if you go to Florida State –

REP. WILSON:  Exactly.

MR. MARTIN:  — or Florida A&M, you can because they’re state universities.

REP. WILSON:  Um-hum.

MR. MARTIN:  Gotcha.

REP. WILSON:  So, we – we – we – we have found a way.  That’s the only portion that they have not blocked us, and that is the “vote from home” –

MR. MARTIN:  All right.

REP. WILSON:  — section.

MR. MARTIN:  Look.  We’re going to keep following this.  Again, we want to keep – want to keep stressing ways to get around those barriers, because if folks – they defeated poll taxes, we can defeat these voter suppression efforts as well.

Congresswoman Wilson, we appreciate it.  Thanks a bunch.

REP. WILSON:  And power to the people.

MR. MARTIN:  All right.  And go home and count those hats.

REP. WILSON:  [Chuckles.]  Okay.