Ga., Fla. Lawmakers Leave D.C. Summit Ready To Fight For Bipartisan Voting Reforms

Dec 5, 2013

Local lawmakers from more than 20 states convened the first ever Voting Rights Project Policy Summit in Washington D.C. this week. Representatives from both Georgia and Florida were among those who attended the summit created by the left-leaning group America Values First.

Georgia’s House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, the Summit’s moderator, says one main goal they looked at is how to advance legislation through Republican-led Legislatures. The answer, she says? Compromise.

“When you turn a conversation into a partisan conversation, it stays there. But, when you come to the table with empirical evidence, and more importantly, with allies from outside of the Legislature from across the aisle, you start a very different dialogue,” said Abrams.

Abrams says lawmakers talked about how to push back against what they see as a restriction of voting rights sweeping the country, including purges of voter rolls and a recent directive in Florida to limit absentee-ballot drop-off locations.

She says voters often don’t realize their rights may be impacted until the day they go to vote. She says one way to remedy that is by making sure all voters understand voting law changes.

“The second is really having conversations with people who are responsible for administering these laws, like talking with the county clerks and auditors, because often they will tell you these systems don’t make sense to them. But, because they’re often not consulted until after the legislative session, they don’t have a chance to have a voice to impart their concerns. And, then third, is just really creating a national conversation about this issue,” she added.

"Too often, we’re operating in silos, Florida here, Georgia there, but we have an opportunity with this Voting Rights Summit to pull together all 50 states to create a national voice."

Tallahassee State Representative Alan Williams suggested adding mobile voting sites…

“…for those areas where you know there may be a high voter turnout, and also looking at online registration, looking at ways to deal with our provisional ballot issues. I don’t think we can continue to approach voting the way our parents and our grandparents did it. We can’t approach it with an typewriter mentality in an IPAD world,” said Williams

Meanwhile, Williams says he’s hopeful some voting rights issues will be brought up in the 2014 Legislative session, including a bill automatically registering Florida voters when they get a new driver’s license.

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