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Florida Democrats Tackle Voting Rights


House and Senate Democrats are rallying around two sets of bills that would promote voting rights in the sunshine state. Legislators holding the meeting are 100% done with voter restriction.

Florida’s recent voting history is less than stellar. From confusing or muddled instructions on where to vote, to the flawed voter purge a few years ago, to the now notoriously long lines in the Capitol, exercising the right to choose new leadership has been complicated.

Moné Holder, Legislative and Policy Director for The Florida New Majority, says enough is enough.

“Today, Florida voters of color are more vulnerable than ever,” Moné said, “and the need to protect the fundamental right to vote is more urgent.”

A study released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office in 2014, shows a direct correlation between voter ID laws and minority turnout.

Sen. Oscar Braynon II (D- Miami Gardens) is well aware of the issues, and says the 2012 election illustrates the problems.

“Desiline Victor was 100 years old— or, 99 years old, she’s 100 now,” Braynon said. “And she waited four hours in line. And we all know why she waited four hours in line, because of things we did in this legislature that made it harder for people to vote.”

This was the theme- profound disappointment in the legislature and a determination to do better.

The Florida Legislature revised the state’s voting rules in 2013, in an attempt to fix the problems that plagued the 2012 presidential election cycle.

The democrats are promoting a set of bills that would require local election supervisors to provide more advanced notice of polling locations, and restrict partisan legislative changes to state voting laws.

“We’re just saying,” Braynon summarized, “if you’re going to change anything dealing with voting, it has to be for a good reason.”

Rep. Joe Geller (D- Aventura) expanded upon their transparency efforts.

“Some of the things that the coalition has supported that we signed up for here, are making sure that supervisors provide information at a timely fashion, and put it on the website,” Geller said. “How simple is that?”

There’s also a provision in one of the bills that requires private spaces which become polling locations during elections to become temporary public spaces, which would allow them to be better managed.

“So for you to say, ‘oh, the voters can come in here, but we’re not going to let anyone onto our property that we don’t feel like, we’re not going to let you have contact with these voters to help them if they need assistance,’ that’s unacceptable,” Geller said.

It’s unlikely the proposals will get through the Legislature. Lawmakers have already approved one change: pushing back the state’s primary date. Florida will vote again next spring in the 2016 presidential primary election.

Matthew Seeger began his work in radio in 2012, during an internship he took with WUSF in Tampa. He went on to volunteer at 89.7 FM “The Voice” for several years as a news anchor and production assistant. He began working with the WFSU news team in January of 2015. In addition to reporting the news, Matt is a voice actor, having recorded and produced several creative audio pieces, as well as his own series for V89’s Vox Populi program called “Tales from Hell Creek,”-- a series of slice-of-life vignettes about dinosaurs.