Nov 12, 2012 –

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

(Miami) – In the face of massively long lines and other barriers to voting, a coalition of voting rights advocates including Florida New Majority, Florida Immigrant Coalition, AFL-CIO, Advancement Project, AFSCME and SEIU Florida State Council today urged legislative leaders to take swift and decisive action to protect voting in the sunshine state. The groups convened a media conference call where leaders detailed a multi-pronged plan to ensure elections are free, fair and accessible for all people.

“Every American citizen has the right to vote without restrictions,” said Alma Gonzalez of AFSCME. “Sadly voting is under assault in Florida as many voters were forced to endure long lines, sacrifice a portion of their pay in order to vote and cast provisional ballots when they were eligible to vote by regular ballot,” Gonzalez continued.

“Governor Rick Scott and his cohorts in the legislature intended to make it harder for Floridians to vote,” said Gihan Perera, Executive Director of Florida New Majority. “They accomplished this task.”

In 2008, it is reported voters had to wait an average of 3 hours to vote. In 2012, the average wait time for voting was 6 hours.

“Voting is the cornerstone of American democracy yet the path to vote in Florida is fraught with challenges, especially for communities of color, seniors and persons with disabilities,” said Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of Advancement Project.

“The determination of voters to cast their ballots was heroic,” said Florida State Senator Oscar Braynon. “But they should never have to wait in line for six hours to do it. Florida can and should do better,” he continued.

To improve voting in Florida and ensure polling sites are fully resourced, the groups are advocating for the following reforms:

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.
“Our coalition of community leaders, voting rights activists and clergy will immediately work to ensure these recommendations are adopted by election officials and legislative leaders,” said Kathy Bird, Civic Engagement Coordinator at Florida Immigrant Coalition.

For more information, visit apvotefl.org

The voter reforms are available here.