The League of Women Voters of Florida and other voter protection groups across the state, have called on Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature to take urgent steps toward successful election reform, following last week’s election fiasco.
At a press conference on Tuesday, League of Women Voters of Florida State President Deirdre Macnab outlined the many obstacles voters faced and characterized the process as “unacceptable.”
“Today we all come together with a joint call for the Governor and our Legislature to join together to show the collective will that, they too agree that election reform is needed in Florida,” said Macnab.
The voter protection groups called for a bi-partisan task-force to be established to develop a blue print for election reform. According to MacNab, the members of the task-force should be appointed by the governor and legislature and drawn from a diverse array of stakeholders with expertise in elections.
Florida election was plagued with numerous problems, including voter wait times of up to 8 hours, a four-day delay in confirming the election results, insufficient election budgets and inadequate knowledge on the part of some poll workers.
“What happened this year in 2012, last week, must never happen again,” Macnab warned.
The groups have also proposed that the task-force be adequately funded and supported by staff, with recommendations forthcoming two weeks prior to the start of the new legislative session in March 2013.
Cathy Kern, representing the AARP, also addressed the press conference, outlining problems that senior citizens, in particular, faced. These related to inadequate public transportation, the length and complexity of the ballot – Florida’s election ballot contained 11 amendments – and signature verification.
Regarding signature verification, Kern explained that many seniors, on account of perhaps a stroke or arthritis couldn’t sign their names the way they did previously, and as a consequence were turned away from polling locations.
“I don’t believe that voters were being fraudulent or were trying to pull one on the electoral officers,” Kern said in defense of seniors. “They were just people who wanted to exercise their freedom to vote.”
Joyce Hamilton Henry, Director-Regional Office, ACLU, opined that Florida’s election process was “shameful” and the practices adopted “totally unacceptable.” She highlighted the disproportionate burden that fell on minority voters, as evidenced by research. Some voters in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties ended up casting their ballots after mid-night, after waiting for several hours on line.
“This is voter suppression, without a doubt,” said Hamilton Henry. “This problem must be fixed…we can’t sit idly by.”
But perhaps, Rev. Randolph Bracy, Pastor – New Covenant Baptist Church – summed it up correctly when he said that, the efforts undertaken by Scott and the GOP-led Legislature to suppress the vote, actually fueled the effort on the part of voters.
“The effort by the Governor and Florida Legislature to circumvent and cause people to not vote, actually brought the people out to vote,” he said. “It boomeranged.”
Pointing out that House Bill 1355, Florida’s new Election Law was a bad piece of legislation, Bracy cautioned the governor and his colleagues, to not let the state be the butt of jokes and every late night comedian.
“Mr. Governor, this is a challenge across the bow,” he said. “Let’s not be the butt of everyone’s jokes. Let’s get it right the next time around.”
Voter protection groups at today’s press conference, in addition to the League, included, AARP, Equality Florida, Hispanic Coalition, Florida Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Florida Votes Count, Hispanic Coalition, and Florida Institute for Reform and Education. As in Orlando, a similar press conference was held today in Miami.