Think your ballot counts in Florida? If legislation passes this session, you may never know…

One in 20 ballots cast by the 56.6k 18-21 year-olds in Florida who voted by mail in the 2018 General Election were rejected as invalid by county Canvassing Boards. This figure is even higher than in previous election years, as I found in my report for ACLU Florida.

I suspect that federal Judge Mark Walker, who ruled prior to the 2018 General Election that Florida voters should have an opportunity to cure their vote-by-mail ballots if they they had a problem with their signature, might be surprised by this figure.

Perhaps I’ll write more about this troubling statistic. Or perhaps not.

It will depend on whether election records in Florida remain open to the public for scrutiny.

Chances are, they may not be.  So much for the “Sunshine State.”

Republican Representative Cyndi Stevenson has introduced HB 218, https://myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Bills/billsdetail.aspx?BillId=63174, which is similar to Republican Senator Tom Lee’s SB 342, https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00342.*

The bills are a follow-up to a 2018 bill (HB 761) filed by Representative Stevenson, which would have kept voter information secret. That bill passed 10-0 out of committee. There was no public discussion or debate.

Sure, there some privacy issues that may concern some people when voter registration records available to the public.  But open record laws are essential if you want to ensure you haven’t been kicked off the voter rolls or to ensure that that ballot that you cast actually is counted.

Do you know if you were one of the 35k voters in Florida who had his or her ballot rejected (either their Vote-by-Mail or their provisional ballot cast at the polls)?

Sadly if this bill passes, in the future, you may never know.

Public records are essential for scholars to be able to dig down into the weeds to ensure the equal protection of voters.  Our ability to do so in Florida hinges on whether the state legislature decides to follow the self-serving recommendation of our elected Supervisors of Elections to restrict voter records and avoid public scrutiny and accountability.

Don’t be fooled about this bill being an effort to protect voters.  If it passes, it will have exactly the opposite effect. Without transparency, voter disenfranchisement becomes much more of a reality.

Don’t let democracy in the Sunshine State die in darkness.

 

*Note: Corrections for 2019 legislation.

 

Now available: “Mortality, Incarceration, and African American Disenfranchisement in the Contemporary United States”

Available here

Now Available for (free) Download: “Race, Shelby County, and the Voter Information Verification Act in North Carolina”

Race, Shelby County, and the Voter Information Verification Act in North Carolina

Florida State University Law Review

Michael C. Herron & Daniel A. Smith

Abstract

Shortly after the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the State of North Carolina enacted an omnibus piece of elec-tion-reform legislation known as the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA). Prior to Shelby, portions of North Carolina were covered jurisdictions per the VRA’s sections 4 and 5—meaning that they had to seek federal preclearance for changes to their election proce-dures—and this motivates our assessment of whether VIVA’s many alterations to North Carolina’s election procedures are race-neutral. We show that in presidential elections in North Carolina black early voters have cast their ballots disproportionately in the first week of early voting, which was eliminated by VIVA; that blacks disproportionately have registered to vote during early voting and in the immediate run-up to Election Day, something VIVA now prohibits; that registered voters in the state who lack two VIVA-acceptable forms of voter identification, driver’s licenses and non-operator identification cards, are disproportionately black; that VIVA’s identification dispensation for voters at least seventy years old disproportionately benefits white registered voters; and, that preregistered sixteen and seventeen year old voters in North Carolina, a category of registrants that VIVA prohibits, are disproportionately black. These results illustrate how VIVA will have a disparate effect on black voters in North Carolina.

Download here: