A Paradigm Shift in Florida Electoral Reform: A Call for the Fundamental Right to Vote

Jan 24, 2013 —

The ongoing challenge of America is to ensure that democracy works for all.  Here in Florida, we know that challenge better than most.  We have been ground zero for elections disasters, both because of extraordinary circumstances, and because of the direct actions of some state politicians.

Under the pressure and scrutiny of state and national politics, Florida all too often has been poster child for non-effective electoral practices, often at the cost of civil rights. The past has only reinforced the notion that state policies are designed to discourage full participation. We only need to be reminded of recent history, when HB 1355 and subsequent resource intensive pursuits of hysteric voter purges made it unfairly harder to vote.

Even if we choose to forget these past transgressions against the democratic process, the truth is that simple rhetorical fixes and vague statements will not restore statewide or national faith in our electoral process. The current rhetoric from the Governor Rick Scott doesn’t fully protect all Floridians and doesn’t go nearly far enough to bring Florida forward. His suggestions are woefully inadequate to address the depth of our electoral issues and the reality of serious lack of public confidence in our voting system.

So instead of leaving the rules of governance to an increasingly political and polarized legislative and executive office, the Right to Vote must become a fundamental right, permanently enshrined in the fabric of our state. It must be protected against the vagaries of political influence and money and enforced by an authority higher than any one party or politician. The legislature should also move to fundamentally shift policy from making voting a confusing process to one that allows people to more simply and straightforwardly meet their civic responsibility. At the end of the day, the rules should be consistent and easy to understand. The process should be accessible and flexible.

To answer the call and fulfill the great promise of this nation, the right to vote must be enshrined into Florida law and into our state constitution. Proposals for both should: