March 05, 2013 –

A Statement from Florida New Majority and the Advancement Project

The Florida House voted today in favor of an election reform omnibus bill. The measure allows supervisors of elections to offer early voting between eight to 14 days at their own discretion, limits some ballot summaries to 75 words, and lets supervisors use fairgrounds, civic centers, courthouses, county commission buildings,  stadiums  or convention centers  for early voting sites. Civil rights groups Florida New Majority, Advancement Project and a coalition of others support HB 1259, filed by Rep. Joe Saunders, and SB 888 (known as Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act), sponsored by Sen. Oscar Braynon, as stronger answers to the state’s longstanding election problems.

“Today’s House vote is a step in the right direction, but falls woefully short of achieving the kind of election reform that is needed in Florida,” said Florida New Majority Executive Director, Gihan Perera. “We need to stop tinkering around the edges as a so-called solution for fixing big problems. Year after year, our elections have been plagued by bad policies, passed by partisan lawmakers, that make it harder to vote. It’s time to stop these tactics with bold, forward-looking measures that ensure all eligible citizens can cast their ballot. Bills like Sen. Oscar Braynon’s Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act, and Rep. Joe Saunders’ HB 1259, are the gold standard of voting reform. These bills take politics out of the equation by enshrining the fundamental right to vote into state law – ensuring that that every eligible Florida voter can participate in our great democracy.”

“In order to have a robust, inclusive democracy in Florida, the state has to think beyond just trying to undo the damage that was caused in 2011 by the troubling voting laws we saw then,” said Advancement Project Co-Director Judith Browne Dianis. “We urge the Senate to reject the omnibus bill and pass Desiline’s Free and Fair Democracy Act. By guaranteeing an explicit, affirmative right to vote into state law, Senator Braynon’s bill would protect citizens against legislative barriers to voting and require lawmakers to show they have a compelling reason before enacting new voting laws. This would not only resolve the problems of past elections, but it would also protect the right to vote in more meaningful ways in the future, once and for all.”