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Voters in America: Who Counts

Aired October 20, 2012 - 20:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, that section is not in the bill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry. That's not in the bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the vote matters as much to you as it does to me, why don't you want to protect it?

LAVON WRIGHT BRACY, VOTING RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I really believe they're trying to suppress the minority vote because in 2012 the state of Florida is going to be crucial to the re-election of the president. It's as simple as that.

My name is LaVon Wright Bracy. The first time I voted was in 1966.

STATE REP. DENNIS BAXLEY (R), FLORIDA: My name is Dennis Baxley and I served at the Florida House of Representatives. The first time I voted was in 1970 when I turned 18 years of age and I never miss an election.

When I hit that park way it goes up to the capital I just still get this tingle that this is self-government.

All right. Brought all your team?


BAXLEY: Good morning, ladies. Come on in.

We get to do this and why me? All right. What are we going to talk about? How can I help you? Why me out of 156,000 people would they pick me and let me go and represent them in their seat in the Florida House?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for your time.

BAXLEY: Nice to see you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks for giving me a piece of your Saturday. BAXLEY: When I look at these five kids and seven grandchildren, I'm very focused on the next generation. Am I blessed man or what? I can't give these kids a diminished future. I have to go do what I can to make sure they have the opportunity. Somebody did it for me.

And, yes, I'm emotional about that. It's why it's particularly painful when people question your motives. But you know what, I don't do it for my critics. I do it for the people that I serve and the future of these kids.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One hundred and fifteen members voting a quorum present, Mr. Speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take up and read the next message.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: One of the first shots and perhaps the biggest in the battle for the White House is fired not in a caucus, not in the primaries, but right here in the Florida legislature.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: HB-1355. The bill to be entitled "An Act Relating to Elections.

JOHNS: And it is fired with a silencer.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we don't take action --

JOHNS: Quietly and far from the national limelight Florida's Republican-led legislature debates House Bill 1355.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Representative Baxley, final debate.

BAXLEY: For everybody to walk in on election day and just attest that they live somewhere and, folks, that's just not right.

JOHNS: It is a bill that makes 80 changes to Florida's election law, one change makes registering voters harder for community groups who typically reach out more to minorities. These groups must turn in registration forms within 48 hours or face thousand dollar fines. False registration can lead to even higher fines. And up to five years in prison.

BAXLEY: Accountability hurts. It's never comfortable.

JOHNS: Another change sharply reduces early voting days which are more popular with minorities than with whites.

BAXLEY: Just look at the rules and play by the rules.

JOHNS: And still another forces some people who moved to vote provisional ballots which more often affect minorities and students.

BAXLEY: One of the things that I think was really going wrong is the opportunity for local elections to be displaced or stolen by just people coming in and moving their address.

JOHNS: All of this in the name of preventing voter fraud.

STATE REP. ERIC EISNAUGLE (R), FLORIDA: Every single time this fraud is allowed to occur in Florida, your right to vote and my right to vote is degraded.

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Bill 1355 is going to create an undue hardship on minority voters in the state of Florida in addition to the elderly, poor and rural voters who will also be disadvantaged by it.

PROF. RICHARD HASEN, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, IRVINE: If we have a razor thin election in Florida and Florida votes are decisive for the electoral college outcome then these changes in the rules could determine who the next president is.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On Representative Baxley's motion.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Seventy-seven yays, 38 nays, Mr. Speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the bill passes..

L. BRACY: You are subject to the 2011 version of the law that went into effect May 19th, 2011. I have not done one in this new process, but I have to start sometime. December the 2nd, I'm going to see what I can find.

How's everybody? Don't stop because you see me coming. I don't think I met you. Are you a registered voter? When did you register?


L. BRACY: Where did you move from.


L. BRACY: Oh, yes, you have to be able to vote here.

R. BRACY: She's been a foot soldier for a long time. And she does what needs to be done.

L. BRACY: Fill this out.

I have been working for 35, 40 years as it relates to voter registration, getting people excited about voting and as time passes, it is more and more difficult.

I think I have two right now. I'm going to do five. This is where I turn in all my registrations. Do I need to put my number on the absentee ballot?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, just on the application.


I know that I have to be very careful in what I'm doing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Turn it in within the 48 hours from the date -- the day you have their registration, 48 hours.

L. BRACY: So every time I do one I need to then put my number on that and put the time. Mistakes are costly now.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You have to put it on each one.

L. BRACY: You know, I've been doing this for 20 years and now they're just making it difficult.

JOHNS: Bracy who works solo isn't backing down from the threat of penalties.

L. BRACY: Thank you.

JOHNS: But others, even Florida's nonpartisan League of Women Voters stopped registering voters in the state.

DEIRDRE MACNAB, FLORIDA LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS: Five years in jail, $5,000 in fine, third-degree felonies, it is going to be almost impossible to find volunteers who would be willing to do that.

PROF. DANIEL SMITH, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA: The League of Women Voters and other groups provide an outreach to these populations. African- Americans are going to have a more difficult time registering to vote because they won't have as many opportunities to do so.

ROLAND MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So black folks have had to deal with barrier after barrier for years. There were poll taxes before. There were literacy tests before. Now you have to deal with the newest form and that is fines when it comes to registering people.

L. BRACY: You know I'm married to a poor preacher. I cannot afford to go to jail and neither can I afford to pay a fine.


L. BRACY: This is a Sunday morning. We're about to have worship service.

R. BRACY: My wife who's been a champion for voter empowerment for a long time and the 2008 election, she single-handedly registered more than 1200 people.


My bride of 38 years.

L. BRACY: Good afternoon.

CROWD: Good afternoon.

L. BRACY: What Tallahassee, your legislature, wants you to do is not vote in 2012. And they don't want people like me to inform you of the changes that have been made.

I remember my dad said, listen, you must vote. So if you haven't voted put your hand up with everybody else's hand and let's assume you just changing your address but we need you to fill out a voter registration form.

From 18 to 63, I have never missed an opportunity to vote.

If you don't vote, you will not have a voice. There are people who died for you to have the right to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will register to vote because the citizens of these United States we have the right to do it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the cries of pain and the hymns in protest of oppressed people, systematic and ingenuous discrimination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The outrage of Selma still fresh enacted one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom. To ensure the right to vote.

L. BRACY: Signature and today's date. I'm ready for the challenge. I'm just not going to let Tallahassee win this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And you're starting now.

L. BRACY: I'm starting now. Thirty.


JOHNS: How often do you do this a day?

L. BRACY: I try to get out once a day. Sir, are you a registered voter? How are you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not a registered voter.

L. BRACY: Oh, you're not?

JOHNS: LaVon Bracy's relentless pursuit of potential voters is about to take her to Gainesville, Florida. It is the place where Bracy's sense of her own destiny and purpose was forged in the battle for her civil rights.

L. BRACY: These benches were not here, and it's a bit different now than it was when I was here in 1964.

R. BRACY: These were days when there was stark segregation, Jim Crow.

REV. THOMAS A. WRIGHT, LAVON WRIGHT BRACY'S FATHER: I said to myself, something got to be done.

L. BRACY: We needed to integrate the public school system.

WRIGHT: I'm reading from the United States District Court. They are official papers that brought about integration of the school system of a larger kind of Florida.

L. BRACY: My dad probably knocked on 500 doors of parents trying to persuade them to allow their kids to go to the all-white school.

WRIGHT: And the parent says, too dangerous. And something said to me, you have got two children in the school system. Use one of your own children.

L. BRACY: I decided to go to the all-white school.

WRIGHT: The FBI came to the house. This is the most dangerous thing that you can do. Are you exactly sure that you want to do this? I say, yes.

L. BRACY: When I first came in the class, I sat in that seat. Everybody in the entire class got up went to the other side of the room and the teacher asked, why are you standing, and one of the students says, I will rather stand than sit by a nigger.

There was not a day I didn't get spit on. There was not a day I didn't get cursed. This particular day I went up to this young man to tell him a message from my father. He said, nigger, I don't know you, and he threw me down and all of the other five boys proceeded to really whip me. They beat me. I mean they kicked me. They did all sorts of things.

And when the bell rang, there was not one person that stopped. Everybody saw me on the ground. And they just left me there.

WRIGHT: When LaVon told me that she was beaten, I said, good gracious alive. I said, LaVon, you want to stop?

L. BRACY: I have stitches in my head from here all the way in the back from where I was beaten and cut and I told, dad, I said, dad, I can't go back. I think I stayed home about a week and then I got up and I told dad to take me back to school. I said, you know what, they're just going to have to kill me because I cannot let them win.

R. BRACY: That's what I'm talking about her steely resolve. She made the decision that she was going back and it was a horrible year, but she finished as the first African-American to graduate from (INAUDIBLE) kind of school in Gainesville, Florida.

L. BRACY: Well, this is the yearbook, huh? I don't even think I got one. In fact, I didn't want one. I really didn't want one because I didn't know any of the students. I didn't want any memory of any of these folk who were so nasty to me. And parents did not want this black spot in their book, so they lightened my color so it would blend in and I wouldn't look like I was an African-American.

I think the tenacity that I have is driven by the abuse that I had to take in order to make a difference.

Thank you.

LAVON PATRICE BRACY, LAVON WRIGHT BRACY'S DAUGHTER: If there's someone out there that wants to vote and needs to be registered, this is the last thing she does she's going to try to get that person registered. L. BRACY: Are you registered voters?

JOHNS: Forty-eight years later even on this day, LaVon Bracy does not waiver from the task at hand.

L. BRACY: I've been voting since I was 18 years old. And the only way you can have a voice is through your vote.


L. BRACY: Vote every time there is an election. You got some great answers. Just come on the campus and I see all of these kids, a lot has happened since 1965.

JOHNS: One hundred and fifty miles away in the state capital --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Off we go. Hold that. Hold that.

JOHNS: Democrats begin a furious assault on Florida's new election law.

L. BRACY: Now you know that this is harmful.

JOHNS: Dennis Baxley who crafted the law says his opponents are welcome to take on the law in federal court.


L. BRACY: Everybody is a registered voter? Just checking to see if you're all registered voters.


L. BRACY: U.S. citizen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. This is one. I got one.

JOHNS: In a little more than a month LaVon Bracy has already registered more than 100 voters.

L. BRACY: Find me another one.

CROWD: Voter suppression is not to go.

JOHNS: At a democratic rally in Tampa she runs into an old friend.

L. BRACY: How are you?


JOHNS: An important ally who can take the fight to two additional fronts, the statehouse and the courthouse.

THOMPSON: My name is Geraldine Thompson. I'm a member of the Florida House of Representatives. I remember voting for the very first time in 1968. L. BRACY: Oh, I'm just determined that, you know --

THOMPSON: Not going to let --

L. BRACY: No. No.


JOHNS: Together Thompson and Bracy joined forces with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters. The league has stopped registering voters in Florida and filed a lawsuit to throw out Baxley's restrictions on voter registration.

MACNAB: This lawsuit today is our way of saying and telling the legislators in Florida that these kinds of laws and this law in particular shall not stand.

HASEN: If the laws are so draconian that the League of Women Voters cannot feel comfortable in a nonpartisan basis registering Democrats, Republicans, anyone to vote, then that's gone too far.

L. BRACY: I'm embarrassed that it's in the state of Florida.

JOHNS: While everyone waits for the courts to rule on Florida's new election law, Thompson and fellow Democrats are hoping to overturn it in the legislature.

But the clock is ticking. The session ends in just 60 days.

THOMPSON: Today is a big day. First day of the 2012 session.

CROWD: We the people.

THOMPSON: We have some demonstrators here this morning. This is a battleground.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You guys need to be as loud as you can so we can hear you through those door.

THOMPSON: We will have an address from the governor.

JOHNS: Today Governor Rick Scott delivers his annual State of the State address.

GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Everyone of you here today and it's a real special honor for me to be your governor.

THOMPSON: He didn't say anything at all about voting, nothing at all.

JOHNS: Do you think there's a plan? Do you think it goes to the governor's office?

THOMPSON: Definitely in Florida. Definitely.

JOHNS: Rick Scott?

THOMPSON: Rick Scott, definitely.

JOHNS: You think he intentionally is doing this?

THOMPSON: Yes, I think that Rick Scott is part of the plan. The method has changed but the objective is the same.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Voting rights are human rights.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Voting is a human right.

JOHNS: By the start of the year, the NAACP and others take the fight against new election laws national.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a shame that we're in this situation in 2011 that we even have to march for this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We come to this Department of Justice to seek justice.

JOHNS: In Washington protesters demand that the Justice Department enforce the 1965 Voting Rights Act and throw out Florida's election law. While Florida's law may be the toughest, 18 other states most under Republican control also tightened election laws since the 2010 election. Kansas is one of many states that now requires picture I.D.s which they say will prevent voter fraud.

KRIS KOBACH (R), KANSAS SECRETARY OF STATE: The argument that you should always, always push to the most easy imaginable system that you can think of, well then you're going to open up the doors wide to fraud. We do want it to be easy to vote. We want it to be hard to cheat, too.

OK, thanks.

JOHNS: Kris Kobach is Kansas Secretary of State. Like Dennis Baxley he rejects the charge that tighter election laws like requiring photo I.D.s are politically or racially motivated.

KOBACH: I think it's a despicable argument to make, the number one factor driving people to the polls is the candidates, and the excitement of that contest. It's not the mechanics of the election.

HASEN: Democrats use the issue in a political way, as well. They use it for fundraising. They claim voter suppression on a broader scale than I think that actually exists and is a way to gain additional turnout and fire up the base.

JOHNS: They say you're over-exaggerating this.


JOHNS: You're making it up.

L. BRACY: We're not making it up. It's real. JOHNS: Making it bigger than it is --

L. BRACY: It is.

JOHNS: -- to raise money for Democratic causes.

L. BRACY: That's not true. And I registered Democrats and Republicans. I want them all to vote.

JOHNS: This is the kind of issue that gets everybody fired up, right?


JOHNS: They send money as soon as they hear about it because they think the right to vote is being taken away, right?


JOHNS: Why wouldn't you all push this thing a little bit harder than it's worth just to get people racing to the polls?

THOMPSON: Because it has a chilling effect. When some people read about what's going on, some people will throw up their hands and say, I told you so. And so I'm not going to -- I'm not going to bother.

MARTIN: Florida is one of the key states. If you can shave off 50 to 100,000 people who could have voted in '08, and who won't be able to vote in 2012, you could literally win an entire state and that could be the difference between who wins in November and who loses.

STATE REP. MARK PAFFORD (D), FLORIDA: I am requesting that the elections bill that I've filed be heard in this committee.

JOHNS: Back in Tallahassee, Thompson and fellow Democrats are rallying behind Mark Pafford's 1189. A new election bill that would make it easier for people like LaVon Bracy to register voters.

PAFFORD: I am dropping this off with the chair. It's my elections bill that I'm hoping he'll put on the agenda.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At this time we'll take up House Bill 629.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: House Bill 629 is a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Next we have Representative Harold (ph) with House Bill --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: House Bill 811 creates a public record --

JOHNS: Outmanned and outgunned the Democrats' alternative voter bill, HB-1189, isn't even introduced.

BAXLEY: When I go to the capital and somebody asked me what do I do, I don't say I'm a legislator. I say I'm a funeral director. I serve families. JOHNS: When he's not at the capital, Dennis Baxley is at home in Ocala, Florida. Running the family's funeral business. He is the son of a preacher and a fifth generation Floridian.

BAXLEY: You learn to do a lot of thing in a suit when you're a funeral director. Mow the yard, flush the toilet. Sit with families. Death has no respect for a person or station in life. And I think learning to serve through funeral service just kind of opened the door for me to serve in public policy.

It's time to go to the floor at 9:00.

JOHNS: Back in the state capital, Baxley is busy at work in committee and on the House floor, what he is not doing is talking about the law he crafted, at least not until the courts weigh in on Florida's election law.

BAXLEY: I'm willing to be quiet and let the judiciary do its piece. I respect them and I expect them to respect me.

JOHNS: In four days voters go to the polls to vote in the Florida primary. It is the first major test of Dennis Baxley's HB 1355.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you want your country back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want mine back.

BAXLEY: Don't have election if they don't come, right?

JOHNS: For Dennis Baxley, the GOP primary marks the maiden voyage of the election law he crafted.

BAXLEY: Of course, election is all about turnout. So for the primary on Tuesday, we're working right now to get around Saturday morning. This is the grassroots. Precinct (INAUDIBLE). We are going right on the street. You know what the number is? I'll just go house to house.

Good morning. I'm Dennis Baxley. Can I give you a little brochure for Mr. Romney?

They feel very distant from the political machinery until it comes by their house. Have a good Saturday. Then it lets them know this is your government. This is America. You get to choose. Are you ready to go vote?


BAXLEY: OK. Let's get her done.

JOHNS: On this Saturday the father of five heads out to the polls with this 25-year-old adopted son.

BAXLEY: Afternoon. We brought some absentee ballots. They go right in the slot.

I got involved with foster care. Jeffrey was 8 months old. He was a shaken baby. He's blind and has brain damage.

Thank you.

This is the Supervisor Elections Office in Marion County, Florida. And this is the last early voting day.

JOHNS: It was Baxley who agreed to change the last day of early voting from Sunday to Saturday.

SMITH: What the data from 2008 shows quite clearly is that African- Americans preferred to vote on the Sundays and did so in proportions much greater than their overall numbers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the Sunday prior to Election Day, after church services, people got on buses and they rode to the Supervisor of Elections Office and they voted.

L. BRACY: We may take 200 or 300 people to vote.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take your souls to the polls.

L. BRACY: No longer is that day available.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How does eliminating that day affect voter fraud.

JOHNS: We try to get Dennis Baxley to say why. But he's still not talking about his voting bill.

BAXLEY: The legislature has acted various redress in the courts. During that time I think it's my role to be quiet.

JOHNS: So we head north to Gainesville.

BAXLEY: Presidential preference primary day.

JOHNS: And find plenty of Republicans happy to defend Dennis Baxley and the voting law he crafted.

STAFFORD JONES, CHAIRMAN, ALACHUA COUNTRY REPUBLICAN PARTY: Turnout does matter and that's really our job as a county party is to leave as few Republican votes on the table as possible.

My name is Stafford Jones. I am chairman of the Alachua County Republican Party. The first year I voted would have probably been 1986. You know, so many people are early voting there wasn't enough time to get the paperwork done so that's why the legislature pushed it back a day to give the supervisors more time.

If you don't have it done, somebody intentionally or mistakenly could come in and vote a second time and you'd never know. We have a poll watcher there?


JONES: Spring Hill Baptist on Waldo Road.

JOHNS: By late morning Jones is being told of a problem at a nearby polling place.

JONES: When polling opened they were still updating their books from early voters and we'd like to find out why. Did you have an issue this morning where the books weren't updated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I first showed up they were still in the process of updating.

JONES: So why are they still doing it?

JOHNS: At this polling location the elimination of Sunday early voting does not achieve its stated goal. Avoid potential voter fraud by giving poll workers more time to update the books.

Stafford Jones helped give Dennis Baxley inspiration for another part of Florida's voting law. He claimed people moved to Gainesville to vote for a gay mayoral candidate and then moved back out of the city right after voting.

JONES: They don't really understand the politics of this community. They don't have a stake in it.

JOHNS: Baxley's remedy was to force registered voters to vote a provisional ballot if they tried to vote in a different county. Democrats say this mostly affects their supporters who were more likely to be renters and move a lot like blacks and students.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want everybody to vote once and you get a provisional ballot. You get a provisional ballot.

SMITH: Wow, it's interesting hearing the supervisors of elections talk about this and estimating what kind of impact this is going to have.

ION SANCHO, SUPERVISOR OF ELECTIONS, LEON COUNTY, FLORIDA: Younger voters overwhelmingly are negatively impacted by the move-in requirement that they do a provisional ballot. African-Americans were twice as likely than Anglos to be caught in this scenario.

SMITH: The real dirty secret in Florida is that provisional ballots don't count. Over 50 percent of those cast in 2008 were never tabulated towards the final vote tally. We can all remember those images of looking up at the hanging chads. They are the ones who are charged with seeing whether or not the signature matches on the provisional ballot. There's a lot of discretion that goes into this.

JOHNS: Dennis Baxley's response? In a bizarre twist the national outcry over the death of a 17-year-old African-American leads him to speak out on Florida's Stand Your Ground law. Baxley also was that bill's chief sponsor.

BAXLEY: Just kind of spoke to my heart and said, you're also going to have to tell the rest of the story on the election law.

JOHNS: And so one full year after its passage, Dennis Baxley prepares to break his silence on HB-1355.

BAXLEY: Thank you.


BAXLEY: Good morning. How are we doing?

JOHNS: Back home in Ocala.

So you're in full campaign mode.

BAXLEY: That's part of it.

JOHNS: Dennis Baxley is fed up with all the criticism of his Stand Your Ground and election laws and he's ready to talk.

L. BRACY: I would ask Baxley to be truthful and tell the whole nation why this law was passed and why was it authored by him.

JOHNS: Are you trying to suppress the African-American vote?

BAXLEY: Absolutely not.

JOHNS: Are you trying to suppress the Latino vote?

BAXLEY: Absolutely not.

JOHNS: Are you trying to slow them down or reduce the number of people going to the polls?

BAXLEY: No, they're Americans. They have a right to vote. They can go down there and register just like anybody else, and actually I think it's very racist to say well, certain people don't know how to work the system and they have to be treated differently somehow. Why?

JOHNS: But why take away that last Sunday?

BAXLEY: Why? What's -- it's a scheduling issue. You could still vote on Sunday. It's just a different Sunday. Knock yourself out. Load a bus. Go vote the Sunday before.

JOHNS: But that Sunday was the big Sunday where so many people went straight from church to the polls.

BAXLEY: Well, I felt like we had too narrow window. There was only 24 hours to change over from early voting format to the general election format.

JOHNS: The League of Women Voters is widely considered to be nonpartisan. How could you possibly get them mad at you?

BAXLEY: Well, I don't think it's really accurate.

JOHNS: So that they pull out.

BAXLEY: They say they're nonpartisan and I guess technically they are but if you look at everything they're pretty much aligned with the Democratic National Committee on everything they do.

JOHNS: So what is your motive?

BAXLEY: My motive is to protect the election process from mishap and mischieves.

JOHNS: What's the evidence of mishap and mischieves? Where's the fraud?

BAXLEY: Well, it can happen at any place along the way if --

JOHNS: But where has it happened?

BAXLEY: Well, we do know it happens.

JOHNS: Do you?

BAXLEY: Of course we do.

JOHNS: The Florida Secretary of State has referred just 64 cases of possible voter fraud to state prosecutors. That's out of 11.7 million registered voters and over a five-year period.

BAXLEY: We all know that a lot of fraudulent events that occur just don't rise to significance to state attorneys to prosecute.

HASEN: Yes, it's true there is some voter fraud in this country, but I would say in the last 30 to 40 years the amount of frauds that takes place at all has gone way down and there is no credible evidence of any kind of systematic problem with impersonation voter fraud. It's not a serious problem.

BAXLEY: Can you spell ACORN? Look at the abuses across the country that went on and we know that that's probably only the surface.

JOHNS: The now defunct ACORN registered more than a million voters nationwide in 2008. A handful of its workers submitted phony applications, some because they didn't want to do the actual work. But the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service did not identify any reported instances of individuals who were improperly registered by ACORN attempting to vote at the polls.

A quote I saw from you, to secure safe elections sometimes do we have to lose a few voters in the process? The inference is here, you're saying, yes, you think it's OK to lose a few voters in the process to secure safe elections?

BAXLEY: I think as long as you're making it accessible to everyone.

JOHNS: You're taking away inclusiveness.

BAXLEY: I'm saying that if some people somehow don't show the initiative to complete that opportunity, then that may be a risk factor in having a secure system.

JOHNS: As the fall elections approach dramatic new evidence appears lending support to the claim that tough voter laws were put in place to try to suppress turnout. Now it's not just Democrats drawing attention to the issue, this time it's Republicans.

In the critical swing state of Pennsylvania where the Republican-led legislature passed a tough new photo I.D. law, the GOP's House majority leader boasts about the law's effect.

STATE REP. MIKE TURZAI (R), MAJORITY LEADER, PENNSYLVANIA HOUSE: Voter I.D. which is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Sunshine State --

JOHNS: And in Florida, Jim Greer, the former head of the state Republican Party takes dead aim at Dennis Baxley's claim of voter fraud.

JIM GREER, FORMER CHAIRMAN, FLORIDA REPUBLICAN PARTY: It's a made-up issue. It's made up by the Republican-led legislature. Governor Scott in Florida with its sole intent to keep minority voters from having the opportunity to vote because the Republican Party is scared to death that they're going to experience another election like 2008.

JOHNS: Greer says he chaired several meetings in 2009 at party headquarters in Tallahassee with GOP pollsters, lobbyists and a party official who reported directly to Dennis Baxley's boss, House Speaker Dean Cannon.

Let me get this right. You had a meeting on how to suppress minority voters?

GREER: There was one gentlemen in our meeting who used the term that if you continue down this path, they're going to come out from under every rock and we have to stop that.

JOHNS: Were they just sort of nodding in agreement or were they actively sort of embracing something.

GREER: No, they're actively embracing it. They're talking about either taking it to the leadership or they've already taken it to the leadership.

JOHNS: Well, how are they going to market it? What was going to be the message?

GREER: Voter fraud.

JOHNS: That was it?

GREER: That was it. Voter fraud.

JOHNS: Jim Greer. You know -- you know him.


JOHNS: All right. This is your former Republican state chairman who says there was never any voter fraud. What's your response to that?

BAXLEY: I'm not real interested in a lot anything that Jim Greer has to say right now.

JOHNS: He was your state chairman.

BAXLEY: And he was removed for his credibility issues.

JOHNS: Jim Greer is under indictment on charges of stealing money from the state party, which he denies and he's suing the party for backpay.

BAXLEY: Mr. Greer is an angry, offended man who's lashing out at anybody and everybody he can right now.

JOHNS: Is it revenge?

GREER: No, it's not revenge.

JOHNS: Is it retaliation?

GREER: It's not retaliation. It's trying to make the Republican Party a better party and the Republican Party is trying to tinker with and change the voting laws so that they can keep winning elections at all costs.

JOHNS: The picture he paints is after 2008 there was real concern, almost an obsession with the number of people who turned out to vote for the Democrats and a conclusion that something had to be done.

BAXLEY: I don't share his analysis of that.

JOHNS: You disagree?

BAXLEY: I disagree.

JOHNS: Did anybody come up to you and say, we need to suppress the minority vote? Anybody in the legislature?

BAXLEY: I never heard anybody express that.

JOHNS: We need to --


JOHNS: -- get control of these minorities because they're going to overrun us in the next election?

BAXLEY: I never heard anyone express that. I don't see how anybody could look at the access and the availability that we have for people to participate and call it suppression. I really don't.

JOHNS: As the fight over the Republican voter bill continues, time is running out on the Democrats in the Florida legislature.

L. BRACY: First name.

JOHNS: LaVon Bracy continues her one-woman crusade. And everyone waits on what the courts will say.


R. BRACY: We're just thankful to God for this time together. Mommy, you did a great job and we bless you for that.

The Lord is great.

L. BRACY: Yes.

JOHNS: For LaVon Bracy, the long wait is nearly over. In Washington, a federal court and the Justice Department are still weighing a decision on Florida's early voting cuts including Souls to the Polls. In Tallahassee, another federal court is ready to rule on Florida's restrictions on voter registration.

At the state capital --

THOMPSON: Today is the end of the session.

JOHNS: Dennis Baxley is upbeat.

BAXLEY: Just five minutes ago I got a phone call that my number eight grandchild is on the way.

JOHNS: What about the Democrats' alternative voter bill?

PAFFORD: We're hours away from the 60-day session ending and there's no hope that that bill -- you know, it's dead.

JOHNS: Near the stroke of midnight, a symbolic end to the 2012 session. And to legislative voting reform in Florida.

SCOTT: I'd like to thank every member of the House and the Senate --

JOHNS: As Governor Scott congratulates legislators behind the scenes he is about to drop a bombshell.

In May Scott alleges that as many as 2600 noncitizens could be registered voters. They must prove their citizenship or be kicked of the voter rolls or even arrested.

HASEN: The danger of doing a voter purge to remove potential noncitizens right before the election is that you're going to end up capturing in your net many people who are valid legitimate voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me it's like an insult.

JOHNS: Bill Internacola (ph) is on the purge list. Born in Brooklyn, the veteran of World War II earned the Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge. DURBIN: Florida's process for deleting people from its registration list has been so careless it is replete with errors. Almost all the people on the state's list of suspected no noncitizens are actually American citizens.

JOHNS: Scott responds by reducing the purge list to just 198 people. That's 0.0000169 percent of the state's registered voters. Then finally on May 31st --


JOHNS: The court rules on voter registration. The Tallahassee judge throws out Florida's 48-hour rule. Voter groups and people like LaVon Bracy no longer must turn in registration forms within 48 hours or face fines.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're now able to get back to work.

JOHNS: The League of Women Voters quickly announces it is back in business.

THOMPSON: We're looking for LaVon. Oh, here you are.

JOHNS: Geraldine Thompson is about to give LaVon Bracy the good news.

THOMPSON: What I wanted to tell you that Judge Hinkle in Tallahassee just struck down the 48-hour requirement.

L. BRACY: Oh, no.

THOMPSON: Yes, yes, yes, yes.

L. BRACY: Wonderful. Oh, that is great news.

THOMPSON: Now, he did --

BAXLEY: I look at this 80-section piece of legislation and see these as minor adjustments. I don't think it's going to make a big difference whether it's two days or 10 days.

LEE ROWLAND, BRENNAN CENTER FOR JUSTICE: This is a bad law. It is part of a wave of laws that passed across the country and I think this is the first and biggest federal court decision, you know, saying in no uncertain terms no to the state.

JOHNS: Over the next few months judges also say no at least for the 2012 election to tougher election laws in Texas, Ohio, South Carolina, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. But in Florida, the Democrats' euphoria over their voter registration victory is short-lived.

The University of Florida's Dan Smith finds that right after the League of Women Voters and others suspended their efforts, voter registrations dropped significantly in the state especially among Democrats. Then in September in that other court case, federal judges and the Justice Department approved Florida's early voting cuts including the traditional Sunday Souls to the Polls. They also approved the requirement that some people who move must cast a provisional ballot.

HASEN: Things have gotten tougher and to the extent that's what the Republican legislature wants then that's at least a partial win for them.

BAXLEY: Everybody ready? I'm going to pray, OK? Ready, girls? Father, God, we thank --

I hope if anything comes out of this election law, it's a new respect for what a wonderful thing we have in America. That's real. It hurts me to see people take this country for granted.

Good to see you.

This year's going to be very exciting. It's a very important year, crossroads, directions for the country and I think Florida will play a big part of it. Lights out. This might be a good shot. Until next time.