Coalition of Civil Rights Organizations, Legal Groups & Immigrant Justice Advocates Oppose Elections Bill Amendment That Would Create Barriers for Voters who are Elderly, Disabled, Unable to Read or Write, or Do Not Speak English
Category: Press Releases

‘Awake The State’ protests the Florida Legislature’s undemocratic, anti-middle class policies for the third straight year

 

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Click here to watch video summary

 

Miami – With the opening of the 2013 legislative session serving as a backdrop, dozens of Miami residents joined voters rallying throughout the state today as part of a growing grassroots chorus of discontent against Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Legislature’s undemocratic, anti-middle class policies. Across the state, thousands of concerned Floridians demanded that lawmakers undo the damage of their restrictive 2011 voting law that led to last year’s general election fiasco when Floridians waited in line for up to eight hours to cast their ballots, turning Florida into nationwide punch line.

 “No eligible Florida voter should ever have to wait on line for hours to vote. Voting should be free, fair and accessible for all,” said Annette Taddeo-Goldstein, Chairwoman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party and Vice-Chair of Florida Democratic Party to the crowd assembled at Stephen P. Clark Government Center (111 N.W. 1st Street, Miami, Florida, 33128)

 

 “Voting is a human fundamental right,” said Rosaire Oliver, a local resident who was among the thousands of residents who waited hours to cast her vote. “We expect our voice to be heard because it is an important part of democracy.”

 

 Awake The State – Free The Vote rallies were held today in Tallahassee, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Gainesville, Jacksonville, St. Augustine, Palatka, Pensacola, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers, Melbourne, Bradenton, Winter Haven, Flagler County and Vero Beach. In order to ‘Free The Vote’, concerned Floridians are demanding that legislators implement the following reforms:

 

 

·         We need to free early voting by expanding the number of early voting days back to 14, and allow for 12 hours per day while giving supervisors of election more flexibility in opening up new polling locations. Gov. Scott’s recent proposal only mandates 48 hours of early voting.

 

·         We need to free our ballots and ensure they’re reasonably sized. It’s time to reinstitute the 75-word cap on constitutional amendments proposed by the state legislature; just as citizen led initiatives are capped.

 

·         We need to free our voters by making our voter registration system more convenient. Voters should be able to update their voter registration address on Election Day if they move from one county to another, just as they could prior to the harmful changes made to election law in 2011 that gave us record long lines.


The ‘Awake the State’ rallies originally sprung from a growing grassroots backlash against the misguided budget proposals presented by Gov. Scott and legislative leaders in 2011. Since Gov. Scott took office, Tallahassee politicians have cut thousands of jobs and targeted teachers, health care workers and first responders with a tax increase, while prioritizing tax breaks and government handouts to corporations.

 

Awake the State started in 2011 as a Facebook page that quickly grew to thousands strong. Progress Florida, Florida Watch Action and America Votes joined together to provide a platform for everyday Floridians to make their voices heard. For more information, stay tuned to www.AwakeTheState.com.

 

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Category: Press Releases

Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old Florida voter who stood in line for hours to cast her ballot, may see her determination memorialized in a voting-rights act with her name on it.  The Advancement Project, along with civil rights organization Florida New Majority and Florida State Senator Oscar Braynon, have introduced a legislative effort aimed at protecting and improving the right to vote in Florida. The organizations are joining Desiline Victor, whose experience was referred to by President Obama during his State of the Union address. Victor was the oldest guest ever to attend a State of the Union address.

Click here to watch the video.

Category: FNM in the News

102-year-old voter inspires new legislation aimed at fixing Florida’s flawed election system

(North Miami) – Florida State Senator Oscar Braynon, Florida New Majority, Advancement Project and several local leaders and organizations joined North Miami resident Desiline Victor to announce legislation that will protect and improve the right to vote in Florida.

Sen. Braynon’s SB 888, dubbed “Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act,” will help modernize the state’s voting system and enshrine the right to vote into state law.

“Voting is a fundamental building block of our democracy” Braynon said. “By making it easier for all Floridians to exercise this human and American right, we are helping to ensure that people remain confident and engaged in their communities.”

The bill creates true election reform in Florida. It addition to enshrining the right to vote into state law, it makes the registration process more convenient by allowing voters to update their registration address at the polls when they move across county lines, as well as creating automatic voter registration at the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

“Having an explicit, affirmative right to vote protects citizens against partisan efforts to make voting harder,” said Florida New Majority Executive Director Gihan Perera. “Sen. Braynon’s Bill puts a stop to this and ensures that every eligible citizen who takes the responsibility to participate in our democracy can cast a ballot knowing that it counts. “

The announcement took place at the North Miami Public Library, a site that had some of the longest early voting lines in the state. It’s also the site where Victor, age 102, stood in line for three hours before she was able to finally cast her ballot. President Barack Obama recounted her voting experience during the recent State of the Union address, as Victor received a standing ovation from lawmakers while sitting in First Lady Michelle Obama’s box.

“Ms. Victor’s voting experience was all too common for hundreds of thousands of Florida citizens, and millions more across the country,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “Her determination to make her voice heard was heroic and inspiring – but it never should have been so hard. We call on the legislature to pass these critical reforms to ensure that all Florida citizens can finally vote in elections that are free, fair and accessible.”

“The right to vote is fundamental here in our great nation,” said North Miami Mayor Andre Pierre Esq., who presented Ms. Victor with a proclamation on behalf of the city. “When we hear stories of determination, like the story of Ms. Desiline Victor, we are inspired to make a change to preserve that right.

Leaders of more than a dozen organizations attended the event in support of the effort and Ms. Victor, including American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Mi Familia Vota, SEIU 1199, Catalyst, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Haitian-American Grassroots Coalition, Haitian Women of Miami, Miami Workers Center, Power U Center for Social Change, WeCount, United Teachers of Dade, Save Dade, 1Miami and the Miami-Dade Chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI)

“Just undoing the damage to voting rights done by the Legislature and the Governor, and going back to the way things were before they enacted the Voter Suppression Act of 2011, is not a program for voting reform,” said Howard Simon, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.  “Florida needs more thorough voting reforms and Sen. Braynon’s SB 888 is the beginning of the reforms that are needed.

"In Desiline, we see all that makes up the strength of our nation's diversity -- the tireless farmworker, the hopeful immigrant, the vigilant mother who never stops looking to make life better for her children," said Marcos Vilar, National Field Director of Mi Familia Vota. "Sen. Braynon's bill ensures that this strength doesn't wilt on its way to the polls but, instead, echoes in the halls of power as true democracy demands.

“We at APRI know how important the vote is to both the empowerment of our communities and the strength of our democracy," said APRI Miami-Dade Chapter President Lovette McGill. "This legislation helps dismantle the obstacles that exist and ensures that our fundamental right to vote is protected, regardless of who you are, where you live or how much money you have.  

Participating organizations also announced their involvement in a set of statewide forums, beginning at the end of February, on voting rights and improving Florida’s voting system. The activities culminate March 5th with “Awake the State” statewide rallies. 

Category: Press Releases

 

One of us came to this country from Haiti for a better life arriving at age 79 and toiling hard as a farmworker. The other arrived on these shores at age four from Sri Lanka. Both of us were weaned on an American dream of democracy and equality.

Voting is the defining moment where that dream begins. Being able to have a voice in our nation inspired us to vote. One of us is now 42 years old. The other is 102, but that did not stand in the way of us exercising our civic duty last fall. Neither one of us dreamed it would be so hard.

One of us tried to vote twice, but the lines were so long that voting absentee became the best choice. The other’s story inspired President Barack Obama to invite Desiline to join First Lady Michelle Obama for the State of the Union address. We almost cried when the president told the story.

As Desiline shares it: “Although I had arrived at my polling place early in the morning, the line already stretched for many blocks, and the wait time was up to six hours. When more than three hours passed, I began to struggle on my feet, and a concerned poll worker asked me to come back later. On my second visit, I was finally able to cast my ballot. It should not take two visits and hours of waiting for anyone, let alone someone who’s 102 years old, to exercise this basic act of democracy.”

Voting for us is especially urgent. As immigrants, we know that there are many families that have been approved for visas but are stuck waiting for years before they can come see their relatives in the United States. It is Desiline’s dream to have her family members visit her before she makes that journey to the other side. We hope that President Obama will instruct the Department of Homeland Security to create a Haitian Family Reunification Program immediately. We want to make sure that Desiline can see her loved ones before she dies, and we would like to see laws passed that make voting more convenient and fair.

For hundreds of thousands of citizens throughout Florida, exercising their right to vote became an endurance test. At some polling places, people faced lines as long as eight hours. A recent study found that at least 200,000 Florida voters gave up in frustration over the long lines, and left without voting. This is a crime.

The problems with Florida elections did not happen by accident. We both know Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature enacted new laws that made it harder to vote. This included a law placing new requirements and penalties that were so prohibitive on voter registration drives that many groups shut down their voter registration operations in Florida. One of the main factors behind the long lines was Scott’s decision to cut the early voting period nearly in half.

It is time for true election reform in Florida, so that all eligible citizens who take the responsibility toparticipate in our democracy can cast a ballot and know it counts. Florida New Majority and a coalition of community organizations propose common sense recommendations to correct electoral dysfunction in Florida. That starts with enshrining an affirmative right to vote into state law, which would protect against partisan tampering and any form of discrimination in our elections.

To prevent those outrageous wait times again, the state must restore early voting to 14 days, including the Sunday before Election Day, and guarantee voting for at least 12 hours each day. The voter registration process in Florida must also be modernized, to let more eligible voters have their say. Giving voters the choice to register online would add hundreds of thousands of voters to the rolls.

Allowing people to update their registration address at their polling place when they move across county lines would ensure that no one loses the right to vote because they move, and automatic registration of every citizen who turns 18 would encourage participation. An eligible voter should be a registered voter — period.

Some say that the story of a 102-year-old woman pulling out all the stops in order to vote is inspiring. But it is shameful that anyone would be forced to wait in line for hours to participate in their own democracy. We must do more in Florida to ensure that elections are free, fair and accessible for all.

Desiline Victor is a Haitian American living in North Miami, who attended the State of the Union address. Gihan Perera is the executive director of Florida New Majority, a statewide civic participation and human rights organization.

Read More:  http://bit.ly/DeslineAndGihan

 

Category: FNM in the News

gihan and cheryl

Gihan appears on 99 JAMZ Sunday morning radio show Community Voices with Cheryl Mizell and talks about plans to address Florida voting issues, and the role FNM played in reaching Desiline Victor -- the 102 yr old who stood in line 3 hours to vote in N Miami -- as well as the 300,000 voters like her, here, and all across Florida.

You can hear the full show here

Category: FNM in the News

Desiline’s 
Free and Fair Democracy Act

 

Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act helps modernize the state’s voting system and enshrines the fundamental right to vote into state law.

 

Click here to TELL GOV. SCOTT TO PROTECT THE RIGHT TO VOTE IN FLORIDA
Click here to Track the Bill in The Fl Senate

 

For more than a decade, Florida elections have been plagued by bad policies that make it harder to vote. In the past election alone, Gov. Rick Scott and the legislature passed a spate of new voting laws, including new restrictions and penalties on voter registration drives, and cutting the early voting period from 14 days to eight. Many of these changes contributed to outrageously long lines with wait times of up to eight hours. They especially impacted Black and Latino voters, seniors, young people and the working poor.

The right to vote should not be left at the mercy of politicians who manipulate Florida’s election laws for partisan gain. The state must protect our democracy by passing Senator Oscar Braynon’s SB 888 – Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act – which helps modernize Florida’s voting system and enshrines the fundamental right to vote into the Florida Election Code. Having an explicit right to vote, guaranteed by state law, would help resolve the problems with Florida’s elections by protecting citizens from legislative barriers to voting, once and for all.

It is time for a change in Florida, to ensure that the most enduring promise of our democracy – our right to vote – is protected. Click here to sign the petition calling on Gov. Rick Scott to support Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act.

Category: Updates

Last week we continued pushing forward on #VotingRights Reform post #SOTU, we celebrated Ms. #DesilineVictor and took to the airwaves on @99JAMZWEDR #CommunityVoices.  Read More... Cheers!

 

Category: Updates

Voting Rights Groups Unveil Electoral Reform Agenda for Florida

County Commissioner Edmonson, County Commissioner Monestime,
Community Officials and Family Greet North Miami Resident As she Returns Home From the State of the Union

Miami - Miami Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, Miami Dade County Commissioner Jean Monestime and a coalition of groups including Florida New Majority (FNM), the Haitian Grassroots Coalition, Haitian Women of Miami, the Miami Workers Center welcomed home 102-year old North Miami resident Desiline Victor as she returned home Wednesday from last night's State of the Union address.

Category: Press Releases

This week, FNM and partners were featured in The Nation’s article on the future of the voting rights movement.  As if there was any doubt, this week provided more proof of the need to fundamentally reform our state's election system and that's why we're petitioning the White House to investigate elections issues in Florida.

 

Please sign our petition here

Read the full Voting Rights Bulletin.

Category: Updates
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