Florida Republicans conspired to dampen voter turnout among African Americans, according to a former top party official currently battling criminal fraud charges.
Former Florida Republican Party chairman Jim Greer has filed a lawsuit against his former colleagues, saying he was improperly denied a $130,000 severance package after being forced out his leadership position. In a deposition recorded in late May, Greer described a party that had fallen into disarray and become divided between competing factions.
Greer is still facing charges that he diverted party donations to a personal account, and his acrimonious departure from the party gives him an axe to grind. In addition to saying the Florida Republican had come under the sway of "whack-a-do, right-wing crazies," he claimed that party leaders met and discussed ways to suppress the black vote.
"They talked about not letting blacks vote," Greer said during the deposition, adding that party officials believed that "minority outreach programs were not fit for the Republican Party."
The incendiary charge comes at a time when Florida is under heavy scrutiny for a new law tightening voter registration requirements and for a push to strike ineligible names from the state's voter rolls.
The new voting law has drawn challenges from groups like the League of Women Voters, who contend that it erects a needless barrier to the voting booth (a federal judge agreed with that argument in blocking sections of the law). Numerous states have enacted new voting laws since 2010, citing the need to prevent fraud, but opponents warn that minorities and low-income voters are disproportionately at risk of being disenfranchised.
Florida's attempt to purge non-citizen voters from its rolls has also drawn a challenge from the federal government. The Department of Justice moved to suspend the initiative, citing concerns that eligible voters would be erroneously barred from voting. Former Florida governor Charlie Crist on Wednesday called the effort "unconscionable."
The state has a spotted history when it comes to elections, epitomized by President George W. Bush winning the state -- and the Oval Office -- in 2000 amidst widespread charges that voters were turned away or saw their ballots go uncounted. Black voters in particular reported difficulty in casting ballots.
With polls showing a virtual dead heat between President Obama and his all-but-certain Republican challenger Mitt Romney, Florida is poised yet again to play a pivotal role in deciding the next president. Both have campaigned heavily there.