Cerabino: Florida AG Bondi’s constitutional challenge

Note to Pam Bondi: Call your office.

As Florida Attorney General, it’s a good idea to make sure that one of the many borderline unconstitutional initiatives you’re defending doesn’t come up for judicial review on a day when you speak about your devotion to the Constitution.

Unfortunately, that was Bondi’s fate at the Republican National Convention.

She had been tapped on Wednesday to decry the new federal health care law, which she referred to as the “Unaffordable Care Act.”

“This is what happens when a president has such total disregard for our individual liberty that he knowingly and purposefully imposes restrictions against the will of the people,” she said from the convention stage. “This is not why our Founding Fathers risked their lives and their fortunes when they created a nation.”

Oh, brother. Bondi ought to know better.

When you work for Gov. Rick Scott’s legal department, having a total disregard for individual liberty is practically a job description.

And to be a fully functioning Florida Attorney General these days you have to be able to fetishize your love of constitutional freedoms while also defending purposefully imposed restrictions such as warrantless urine testing and NRA-inspired gag laws for doctors.

So on those days when you’re making a speech to glorify the Founding Fathers, it’s always a good idea to make sure some federal judge isn’t also calling out Florida for trampling the Constitution those Founders crafted.

While Bondi was carrying on about the Affordable Care Act, a law that survived a constitutional challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal judge in Tallahassee was announcing that Florida’s new voter registration law was being blocked on constitutional grounds.

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle agreed with the arguments of the League of Women Voters and other groups that Florida’s Republican-led lawmakers had devised restrictive new voter registration policies on dubious grounds.

By announcing his intention to block the Florida voter registration law, Hinkle effectively put an end to voter-registration obstacles that have had a significant impact in this battleground state.

“It’s a big victory for Florida voters,” said Deirdre Macnab, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida. “The law was a nightmare of regulations, fines and unmeetable guidelines. The rules were vague and frightening to volunteers. You would need a secretary on one arm and a lawyer on the other to register voters.”

The League of Women Voters and other organizations suspended voter registration in the state while they challenged the law. Republican lawmakers justified the restrictive voter registration law by arguing that is was necessary to fight voter fraud.

But Macnab disagreed.

“Nobody likes voter fraud, but this law has no connection to this imaginary problem,” she said. “The problem of voter fraud is completely unsupported by the experiences of Florida’s election supervisors. What this law did was suppress groups like the League, which has a 72-year spotless record, and restrict new voices from being added to the voting rolls. We lost a year.”

As a result, new voter registrations are down, particularly among students, she said.

“If we’re going to have the voices of Florida heard, we’re going to need a citizen army of volunteers,” she said. “Patriotism is not just saying the Pledge of Allegiance. A healthy democracy is one in which everybody has an opportunity to speak out.”

The next time Bondi speaks out to gripe about an oppressive government, she ought to make sure it’s not one of those days that highlight her role as one of Florida’s gang of oppressors.