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Teacher, Democrats could pay for Republican crackdown on voter-registration drives

The Republican-led Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott have made personal freedom and less regulation a watchword. But when it comes to voter registration drives, they wanted and passed more regulations. And now a teacher in New Smyrna Beach could face the heavy hand of the state as a result of her trying to help students register to vote, according to the Daytona Beach News Journal.

In justifying the new law, the GOP said it was cracking down on fraud, but lawmakers were hard-pressed to show clear cases of voter fraud. There were some literal Mickey Mouse shenanigans in 08, but the Disney character would not have been able to actually cast a ballot.

Now, with voter-registration group ACORN gone and President Obama's approval ratings circling the toilet, the Republican Party is slowly making up lost ground to the Democrats when it comes to the number of registered voters in Florida. Democrats edge over Republicans has fallen by more than 107,000 since Election Day 2008 (Ds now outnumber Rs by 550,294).

Here's the top of the News Journal story:

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- The teacher who heads up New Smyrna Beach High School's student government association could face thousands of dollars in fines. Her transgression? Helping students register to vote.

Prepping 17-year-olds for the privileges and responsibilities of voting in a democracy is nothing new for civics teachers, but when Jill Cicciarelli organized a drive at the start of the school year to get students pre-registered, she ran afoul of Florida's new and controversial election law.

Among other things, the new rules require that third parties who sign up new voters register with the state and that they submit applications within 48 hours. The law also reduces the time for early voting from 14 days to eight and requires voters who want to give a new address at the polls to use a provisional ballot.

Republican lawmakers who backed the rules said they were necessary to reduce voter fraud. Critics -- including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who testified before a congressional committee -- said the law would suppress voter participation.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to block implementation of the law. The most controversial elements are under review in federal court before they can be implemented in five counties.

Fear of violating the new rules prompted the League of Women Voters to suspend voter registration efforts in Florida. Local political activists in both parties have been similarly stymied, Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Ann McFall said.

"It's bizarre," McFall said of the law. "I haven't found one person who likes this law."