February 25, 2013 –

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.