If Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican controlled-Legislature thought voting rights groups would vanish after Election Day, they were wrong.

Representatives from the Florida New Majority, Advancement Project, Florida Immigrant Coalition, the AFL-CIO and some Democratic lawmakers announced Monday during a teleconference with reporters that they would push for an overhaul of Florida’s election system as well as a possible investigation by a an entity from outside of the state.

“I don’t believe the Legislature or the Republican governor will do anything to help the democratic process here in Florida,” said Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens. “The governor putting together a task force is like the guy who stabbed you in the heart saying, ‘Ok, let me operate on you.’”

Florida was a “voting disaster area,” said Jennifer Farmer, a spokeswoman for the Advancement Project, a Washington D.C. non-profit. Scott and Republican lawmakers intentionally made it harder to register voters and allow them to vote by cutting access to early voting poll sites, Farmer said.

About 250,000 fewer people cast ballots in early voting compared to 2008, Farmer said, making it causing the longer regular voting lines that plagued counties like Miami-Dade.

A new law passed last year limiting early voting was a “wish list of things to do to make sure Barack Obama doesn’t get reelected,” said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Orlando who was elected state senator last week. The group will push for nine reforms, but if they aren’t followed, “we’ll end up back in court,” Soto said.

Here’s the list:

We are calling for a Florida Voter Bill of Rights that includes:

  1. Reinstate Early Voting days cut by Governor Scott and members of the Florida legislature.  Require early voting for at least 14 days, including weekends and the last Sunday before Election Day, as well as ensure voting for 12 hours each day.
  2. More early voting sites.  There should be at least one early voting site plus one additional for every 65,000 registered voters in the each county.
  3. Local discretion in determining early voting sites.  Supervisors of Elections should have discretion to choose the best sites for Early Voting and Election Day based upon local needs.
  4. Increased polling place resources.  A formula should be used to ensure an adequate number of voters, poll workers, machines, privacy booths, scanners, printers and translators per polling place.
  5. Better voter assistance and bilingual access.  Improved voter assistance and translation at the polls is necessary to ensure every voter has the right to vote a complete ballot with full understanding.  
  6. Ensure provisional ballots are counted.  Provisional ballots cast in the wrong precinct or polling place should be counted for non-precinct related elections i.e., countywide, statewide and federal offices.
  7. Provide adequate notice of polling location.  Voters should be informed of polling locations at least 30 days before an election.  Ultimately, on Election Day voters should be able to cast a ballot in any polling location within their county of residence.   
  8. A representative Community Advisory Board including voters of color, low-income voters, persons with disabilities, and the elderly.  Rather than the state changing voting laws in ways that decrease access and discriminate, the people of Florida should have open channels to government officials to communication what is needed to ensure free, fair and accessible elections so all eligible citizens can vote.

This article was originally published by the Miami Herald. Read the full article here ».

Category: FNM in the News

Voting rights in Florida took another significant step forward on Thursday, when a coalition of plaintiffs reached a settlement with the State of Florida in a groundbreaking voter protection case.

The plaintiffs include Florida New Majority, 1199SEIU UHWE, two individual union members of 1199 who were targeted in the voter purge, as well as other local South Florida groups. Legal representation was handled by the Advancement Project and other national voting rights organizations.

The settlement will protect the rights of more than 180,000 voters in Florida to cast a regular ballot in November's general election. The plaintiffs will continue litigating one claim in the lawsuit, asserting that Florida is prohibited by the National Voter Registration Act from implementing a voter purge program of purported non-citizens within 90 days of an election. Florida is currently training election staff on the use of the federal SAVE database, and plans to resume purge efforts in the next month, so the lawsuit will determine whether the State is allowed to remove voters before the general election.

The suit was filed in June following Florida’s illegal purge of suspected non-citizens from its list of eligible voters in the spring. Florida elections supervisors, at the behest of Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, issued letters to more than 2,600 residents threatening to remove them from the voter rolls unless they provided proof of citizenship within 30 days.

The Sun Sentinel reported last week that the Florida court system is facing a shortfall of $108 million. Why? Well, as the foreclosure crisis rolled through our state and foreclosure rates spiked courts were flush with foreclosure cases and foreclosure court fees. But, those fees dropped off significantly when it was discovered that there was more "robo-signing" by mortgage processing firms (robo-signing seems to be on both ends of this crisis for homeowners) and you know, straight up fraud in foreclosure process, and the courts slowed down the whole process. Now Gov. Scott is making a $45 million transfer from general revenue to keep the courts open until next March...

Hold on a second. Are you saying that our court budget, part of our state budget, was balanced on the back of the foreclosure crisis? So let me get this straight. We get robbed by banks on the mortgage side, on the foreclosure side and on the bailout side. Then, when the go to take our property away they pay a fee to the court for filing, which seems fair.

But what does not seem fair, or right, is that the court balanced their budgets on the assumption of high foreclosure. The court, a part of the government, a part of OUR government, was counting on us losing our property so they could pay the bills. All the while Gov. Scott is gutting the public safety net, and making sure the wealthy and corporations don't have to pay taxes in our state. Here is an idea, let's tax the rich and corporations, and create programs that supports homeowners who are facing homelessness because of foreclosure, and the terrible unemployment rate. Let's make the banks pay a fee to the homeowners they are foreclosing on as reparations for the scam they ran on our country.

Beyond the role of government, or at least the roll it should be playing there is the fraud. There is fraud on the front end of the foreclosure crisis, at the point of originating bad loans, and swindling people who either dreamed of their own home, or who wanted to refinance. And there is fraud on the back end of the foreclosure crisis, when people are getting kicked out of their homes because of the bad mortgage they were tricked into in the first.

So there is just some straight up fraud. According to the Associated Press that fraud (I consider "robo-signing" - which in my opinion is the same as forgery = fraud) is coming from all angles, banks, mortgage brokers, etc. We are steeped in fraud (which really is theft when you think about it) exercised by fairly rich institutions, like banks (rich with our tax payer money), against relatively poor people (lets get real, I know you think you too will one day be rich, but most likely, if you are not now, you wont be).

I am inspired by the kids on Wall Street. They are standing up and saying enough is enough. We are the other 99% of the world, and it is time for us to take the world back from those who would hoard it for themselves (I'm looking at you Rick Scott and all your buddies).

Category: Florida

Reading the news these days can be so inspiring with the growing national energy around the Occupy Wall Street Movement. But then, when you turn the page, or click on a new link, it gets infuriating again (which is why the protests started in the first place). Today I am struck by the juxtaposition of these two stories (thanks to Jon Bleyer at Progress Florida for highlighting each one):

State tax collection down $1.5 billion from the Miami Herald, where we learn that all the attempts to create revenue (think income) in the state, by cutting spending (that doesn't make sense, I know), has actually not gotten us out of the hole. The craziness of the Rick Scott scheme to increase state revenue by rejecting revenue sources is perfectly highlighted in this passage:

Lawmakers also turned away billions in federal transportation and health care money, and tried to boost the economy by including $70 million in tax incentives for the new Department of Economic Opportunity and $25 million for a three-day sales-tax holiday for back-to-school supplies in August.

That's right, Scott turned away money and then gave more away and then expected to not have big old budget hole.

Now to the next article:

Scott pushes corporate income tax cutfrom the Herald Tribune, where learn the Job Killing Governor Scott is still moving ahead with a plan to completely phase out the corporate income tax, regardless of the nearly $2 billion budget hole.

Let's recap: 1. We are in the hole by almost $2 billion, after cutting $4 billion from schools, healthcare, and employee benefits and firing 4,000 public employees. 2. Rick Scott wants to completely get rid of corporate income tax as we face a continued crisis in our government structure (because we aren't collecting a fair share from the wealthy and corporations).

These facts of the story are scary. But the story we are being told is worse. The reason we dont have jobs is because corporations are scared to some here and hire us because of the taxes they pay, if government would just get of the way we would be a utopia of full employment.

Here is a different story: Rick Scott is a wealthy and greedy corporatist who wants to extract as much profit from his state for himself and his buddies. He will do anything to get the money out of our pockets and into his. While attacking government and government services, he is using government to service his friends. the other 99% see Gov. Scott for what he is, and we aren't taking it. We are fighting for what is ours, and what is fair.

Category: Florida