Constitutional Amendment for Voter Protection

By: Whitney Ray Email
By: Whitney Ray Email

There are calls tonight to write voter protection measures in to the state constitution.

Long lines and slow results have voter rights groups and Democrats calling for permanent changes to Florida’s election laws. As Whitney Ray tells us, the groups say changing the constitution is the only way to keep politics from dictating when and how people vote.

Could last week’s long lines that had voters waiting up to six hours to vote be a direct result of this bill? In 2011, over the cries of voter advocates, state lawmakers passed HB 1355, cutting early voting from 14 days to eight

“A lot of the problems we are seeing in this election were predicted,” said voter advocate Brad Ashwell.

Ashwell spoke out in 2011 and continues to cry out for election reform.

“I think there isn’t any realistic way to get the politics out, but we need to do our best to try,” said Ashwell.

The problem according to Ashwell is, every year after an election the party in power, and here in Tallahassee it’s the Republican Party, looks at all the data. They want to know who voted early, who voted absentee and which method gave their opponents an advantage. They then draft a bill making it harder for their opponents to vote.

“The political parties are telling them what they need to do for their own livelihood; they are giving them recommendations, writing bills for them,” said Ashwell.

The League of Women Voters is calling for a taskforce to explore election reform. Others are calling for a voter protection amendment in the state constitution.

Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford says it’s still too early to tell how the problem should be solved.

“What ever the solutions are, they should reduce the fact that you have to sit in line for six hours to get your vote to count,” said Weatherford.

The legislature can vote a constitutional amendment on to the ballot, or petitioners can gather signatures for the amendment.

According to newspaper reports, House Bill 1355 was written by the same lawyer responsible for the felon voter purge debacle of 2000. The purge kept thousands of minority voters from casting ballots in that election.

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