New Smyrna Beach teacher Jill Cicciarelli taught her students about more than civics this year when she helped a number of Volusia County high school students register to vote at the beginning of the year, as she had for a number of years. The lesson this year: if you help fellow citizens to vote, you might be fined by the state of Florida. According to a new law passed this year by the ultra-conservative state legislature and signed by Governor Rick Scott, Cicciarelli should be fined because she did not register as a “third-party” signing citizens up to vote. This law is so onerous, with so many ways you can get in trouble for helping your fellow citizen, the League of Women Voters has stopped helping people register.
This week, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson stepped into the issue to make it clear he thinks the law is an effort to suppress voting in a state whose history of voter suppression still requires it to vet changes in voting laws with the U.S. Department of Justice. He visited Cicciarelli’s class and quizzed her students on various government issues, helping to keep the issue in the spotlight.
The Volusia County supervisor of elections has also made her view clear in an op-ed last Sunday: the law is unenforceable and unreasonable.
But maybe that’s the point of the legislation, to be unreasonable, especially for teachers who are trying to help their students take on the duties of citizenship. It’s not as if teachers don’t already feel under attack in the state. So what are the odds of this bad bill being repealed by the legislature?