MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A coalition of voter protection groups gathered on the steps of the Miami-Dade and Orange County courthouses Monday urgently calling for an independent task force be created to investigate what went wrong in Florida on Election Day and the early voting period.

“It is clear that Florida’s 2012 election process was shameful and unacceptable,” said Maribel Balbin, president of the Miami Dade League of Women Voters.  “The state simply can’t afford to be in the national spotlight once again to be the butt of late night comedy, the national punch line, for dysfunctional elections.”

The League, along with the AARP, National Congress of Black Women, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, Florida Institute for Reform and Education and Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to form a “multi-partisan task force” of state leaders who would draft reforms and have them ready at least two weeks before the Florida Legislature convenes in March.

“Somebody has to be accountable for what happened on Election Day,” said Equality Florida’s Nadine Smith. “And somebody has to be accountable for fixing what happened on Election Day.”

The outrage follows some of the longest lines in South Florida history to vote, yet lacked in turnout percentages for a presidential election.

“We know how hard some of our supervisors of elections worked but they were fighting an uphill battle and that’s unacceptable,” said Balbin.

The uphill battle was House Bill 1355.  It was proposed and passed in 2011 by Miami’s own Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, a Senator who has been ducking calls from CBS4 News for two weeks.

“We tried it.  It didn’t work.  Can we go back and fix it from here?” said Balbin.

HB 1355 decreased the number of early voting days by six and limited what could be used as an early voting site. The coalition of voter protection groups is now asking the governor for a task force, similar to one formed following the 2000 election fiasco.

“A budget for staff and resources, a timeline, deliver recommendations before the session starts, leadership.  It needs to be a bipartisan trusted group of citizens,” demanded Balbin.

If change doesn’t happen the League of Women Voters says they’ll march into the courthouse, and file a lawsuit to force it.

“People understand that what happened is completely inexcusable, totally unacceptable, and absolutely fixable,” said Smith.

Gov. Scott has proposed a task force headed by his own Florida Division of Elections chief Ken Detzner.

Other organizations, Florida New Majority, Florida Immigrant Coalition, AFL-CIO, Advancement Project, AFSCME, and SEIU Florida State Council are also banding together to tell Tallahassee lawmakers to make sure this election debacle doesn’t happen again.

They want a longer early voting period, more early voting locations, and a stronger effort to help minority voters.

Miami Gardens democratic State Sen. Oscar Brayon said he’ll sponsor legislation based on the recommendations.

When asked for a statement regarding Tuesday’s call for election reform, Gov. Rick Scott released the same statement he released on Saturday regarding the results for the 2012 general election.

“Around 8.5 million Floridians voted in this general election – more votes cast than in any other election in state history. A record of nearly 4.8 million Floridians also voted early and absentee ballots. We are glad that so many voters made their voices heard in this election, but as we go forward we must see improvements in our election process. I have asked Secretary of State Ken Detzner to review this general election and report on ways we can improve the process after all the races are certified. As part of this evaluation, Secretary Detzner will meet with County Election Supervisors, who are elected or appointed to their position – especially those who ran elections in counties where voters experienced long lines of four hours or more. We need to make improvements for Florida voters and it is important to look at processes on the state and the county level. We will carefully review suggestions for bettering the voting process in our state.”

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.

Contacts:
Rebecca Wakefield, 305 804-7051, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Jose Suarez, 561 267-7069, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Florida New Majority and SEIU Florida State Council build largest political campaign in the state.

Miami, FL – With less than 30 days to go before the Nov. 6 election, polls show that Florida remains the thin purple line that defines the national swing from red to blue. Beyond the major money being pumped into the state by mega PACs, the most underestimated story is the battle for voters happening on the streets.

Florida New Majority and SEIU Florida State Council have formed a strategic partnership to directly combat the undue influence of conservative corporate-funded PAC slush funds with the grassroots-based Breakthrough 2012 campaign. It has mobilized more than 400 volunteers and staff recruited from the community in the Miami-Dade, Tampa Bay, Orlando-Kissimmee, Jacksonville and West Palm Beach areas to canvass and phone bank likely voters and to activate them in the campaign. As of last week, the campaign has knocked on more than 180,000 doors and conducted hundreds of house meetings and community events.

Miami, September 7th, 2010 – The doors of the One Stop Career Center in Miami’s North Side Shopping Center are the hopeful path to relief for thousands of unemployed Floridians who show up every day to apply for unemployment compensation, today a coalition of unemployment workers, formerly unemployed, and community/labor organizations used the One Stop Center as a backdrop in asking Governor Crist for expansion of unemployment compensation.

The Miami Workers Center, Florida New Majority, South Florida Jobs with Justice, Power U Center for Social Change, and SEIU 1199 gathered outside the store-front-help-center and asked Governor Crist to continue supporting Florida’s unemployed by signing an executive order to modernize the unemployment system.

“Our Unemployment Compensation system is outdated and is currently unfairly denying deserved benefits to a large number of unemployed Floridians. It needs to be reformed”, said Badili Jones, from Florida New Majority. “We call on Governor’s to sign an Executive Order and implement the Alternative Base Period, which will allow more than 64,000 people to claim unemployment compensation.”

“We are facing one of the worst crisis in our history. Florida’s unemployment rates reached 12,3% this year, a record level. African-Americans and Latinos are the most affected groups”, said Kit Rafferty of South Florida Jobs with Justice. “We cannot let working families struggle without support through this recession. That will just deepen poverty and inequality in our state.”

Lori Danley was unemployed for over seven months and received unemployment compensation for six months. As a single-mom of two teenagers, she was able to provide the basics for her children thanks to unemployment compensation benefits. “I thought I was going to be in this situation just for one month, but it was more than what I expected. If it wasn’t for the unemployment compensation, I would have not been able to pay my rent or feed my children”, Danley explained.

“By reforming our antiquated Unemployment Compensation System, Florida is eligible to receive more than $440 million from federal stimulus funds. But the funds are held back because the State Legislature hasn’t passed these reforms measures into law”, Jones insists. “More than 30 states of the country have already modernized their unemployment insurance systems. Governor Crist can get the ball running and take the first steps to modernize or unemployment system and introduce it in the 21st century”.

Fraizer, a currently unemployed ex-felon, touched on the common debate about the role of unemployment in society, “These legislators say that unemployment makes people lazy, and then they don’t get jobs. We don’t have jobs because there are none. It’s the legislators who are lazyt, they are dragging their feet when it comes to looking out for Floridians.”

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Category: Florida