Once more I must rise to the defense of our woefully misunderstood public servants in the Florida Legislature.
Of late lawmakers have been taking heat, and even threatened with legal action, over a bill – still awaiting Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature at this writing – requiring a “sufficient” amount of parking be available at early voting sites.
What’s wrong with that? Well you might ask. Listen, if we don’t take the phrase “motor voter” literally as well as seriously here in autoAmerica then where? What can possibly be more patriotic than our collective fidelity to liberty, equality and parking?
But, no, cynics accuse legislators of harboring ill motives in their insistence on parking. This is just a sneaky ploy to avoid having to put early voting sites on college and university campuses. Because – gasp! – student voters are presumed more likely to vote for Democrats than Republicans.
And this kind of thing can quickly get out of hand. At the University of Florida alone nearly 8,000 people voted early in 2018. This after UF students successfully sued the state in federal court to have early voting on campus.
Follow the conspiracy theory here folks: Anybody whose ever tried to drive onto a college campus knows that parking is a nightmare. Permits are almost always required. Faculty and administrators gobble up all the spaces. Campus cops toss out tickets like confetti at a homecoming parade.
“Location is one thing that you’re looking at. But the other thing is access. And if there’s no parking, there’s no access for many people,” Republican state senator Dennis Baxley told the Huffington Post.
Reasonable, no? Well, no, counters Patricia Brigham, the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. She told HuffPost: “This is not about parking. Those students with cars, they can hop in their car and go to an early voting site off campus. This about those students living on campus, who don’t have a car and they want to vote early.”
But listen, there is nothing more American than minimum parking requirements. In this country you can’t build anything – outhouse, corner bar, duplex, mom and pop store, shopping center or subdivision – without meeting stringent parking mandates. That’s precisely why American cities, towns, commercial centers and suburbs have the look and feel of…well, gigantic used car lots.
These things don’t happen by accident you know.
“Parking minimums are the strange, out-dated, and totally unscientific law that’s probably languishing in your city’s zoning code,” asserts StrongTowns.org. “They sound dull (and they are) but they’re incredibly important because they have dramatically shaped our cities in a detrimental manner.”
Yeah, not to put too fine a point on it, but we have for decades been sacrificing the look, feel and very function of our civilization for the convenience of people in cars.
And, really, what’s more fundamental to American civilization than the right to vote? And is that right truly sacrosanct if we can’t park really really close to a ballot booth?
No, if anything, a sufficient parking requirement doesn’t go nearly far enough.
If we’re serous about universal access we need to insist that all voting be conducted at fast food restaurants, parking garages, gas stations, car washes, drive-up banks, drive-through liquor and beer barns – really at any structure specifically designed to allow patriotic autoAmericans to exercise their franchise without having to leave the sanctuary of their vehicles.
Listen, if McDonalds can serve billions, why can’t supervisors of elections?
(Ron Cunningham is former editorial page editor of The Sun.)