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Bring It Home: May 2019

May 2019 Newsletter

At some point in every day, it hits me. A fraction of 1 percent. That’s the difference between arming teachers and paying them. The difference between welcoming our returning citizens to the voter rolls and denying them their constitutional rights. The difference between embracing immigrants and becoming a state that alienates them as “others”.

I’m sure, like me you watched these issues play out in the 2019 legislative session that just wrapped up in Tallahassee. It’s frustrating to know how close we came to a much different Florida. But it’s also a call to action.

If Florida is going to be a 1 percent state, and for the foreseeable future it is, we need to register and educate more voters and we must work to bring about election reform.

Some eye-opening numbers on why that reform is so needed in this edition of the Bring It Home Florida newsletter.

We’re glad you’re here. We hope you’ll join us.

Donna Deegan


Ignoring the Will of the Voters

While Bring It Home Florida volunteers marched toward our goal to register a million new voters, lawmakers in Tallahassee were crafting a bill to suppress the voting rights of a more than million others.

In 2018, Floridians overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4. Nearly 65 percent of voters enshrined in our constitution the right to vote for former felons who have served their time. The GOP led legislature added new hurdles, requiring financial restitution and payment of all fees before a returning citizen can exercise that basic right.

Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum called the bill a modern-day poll tax.

“They’ve resorted to the same tactics implemented in 1885 by Florida neo-confederates scared of the future and social equality,” Gillum said.

He believes this law will have the same effect of silencing minority voices.

Despite constitutional concerns from voting rights groups, Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law last week.

Gillum Lays Out Voting Irregularities, Need for Reform to Congress

Mayor Gillum testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Elections last week, laying out the inequities that still exist in Florida’s elections.

From his testimony:

2018 saw historic turnout of 8.2 million voters, nearly 2 million more than projected but in an election decided by a fraction of a percent, more than 83-thousand ballots, or 1 percent, were rejected as invalid.

Among them, 1.2 percent of vote by mail (VBM) ballots. That’s a higher percentage than we saw in 2012 or 2016. In Broward County that number was 2.8 percent.

Rejected ballots were highest among voters between the ages of 18-21.

“As the rest of the country applauded the young organizers from Parkland for getting engaged in the civic process to make change in their communities, it is estimated that 15 percent of mail-in ballots submitted by Parkland residents between the ages of 18 and 21 were never counted in the 2018 election,” Gillum said.

Further, he pointed out, the ACLU Florida and the University of Florida analyzed the 2014 and 2016 elections which found that younger and ethnic minority voters were much more likely to have their VBM ballots rejected, and less likely to have them cured when they were flagged for a signature mismatch.

Gillum outlined several measures that could be taken to improve the integrity of our voting systems.

  1. Allow same day registration.
    • Current Florida law closes voter registration 30 days before an election. The most restrictive deadline allowed by Federal law.
  2. Repeal Florida’s onerous voter registration laws.
    • Florida’s voter registration laws are among the most restrictive in the nation
  3. Standardize and fund early vote across the state.
    • Counties across Florida have different voting timelines causing confusion among voters who frequently hear conflicting information. Early voting should be mandated statewide for all counties for the 15 days before election day including the Sunday before the election.
  4. Paid postage for absentee ballots.
    • Currently only a few counties pay for postage.
  5. Allow ballots postmarked by election day to be counted.
    • Current Florida law only allows absentee ballots postmarked by election day to be counted. This arbitrary rule disenfranchises voters whose ballots were mailed before election day but not received at their local SOE office.
  6. Increase funding for SOE offices.
    • Supervisors of Elections throughout the state are in dire need of more funding. Florida should have electronic poll books, and modern polling equipment to meet needs of large turnout elections. Equipment failures in 2018 led to long lines at the polls.
  7. Mandate electronic poll books to make voter registration portable statewide.
    • Currently, a voter who moves to a Florida locality without electronic poll books must cast a provisional ballot.
  8. Fix signature matching.
    • We need greater uniformity in the procedures employed by Supervisors of Elections and canvassing boards to process, validate, and if necessary, cure VBM ballots.
  9. Implement a real recount system.
    • Florida needs a recount system that triggers an evaluation of an actual paper receipt rather than a count by the same machines that gave us the result in the first place.

Mayor Gillum also encouraged change on the Federal level that would address voter suppression before it happens.

“I believe all votes should be counted,” he told the committee. Republicans, Democrats, and independents – with the only goal being that the person ultimately sworn into office is the one who actually received the most votes.”

More Longest Table Events

Our Bring It Home Florida Longest Table events are an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversation about the issues that are important both statewide and in our communities. They’ve been a huge success with more to come in June. Next up: Jacksonville June 1st, Orlando June 22nd, and Fort Lauderdale June 29th.  Click here to learn more.

Bring it Home Florida Leader Spotlight

One of our most recent Longest Table events took place in Fort Myers. Crystal Johnson was one of our rock star volunteer leaders who made it happen.

“The Longest Table event was awesome. I find it very encouraging as a concerned citizen who tries extremely hard to take an active role in the community. We had community activists, child advocates, teachers, entrepreneurs and retirees We enjoyed having lunch together as we discussed bringing positive change to our community.”

-Crystal Johnson

Get to know more about Crystal in this month’s leader spotlight.

Name: Crystal Johnson

County: Lee

What brought you to grassroots organizing?

An invitation to get involved, being made to feel welcomed and heard.

What do you do when you aren’t working on this?            

I’m an avid church goer who tries to apply my faith in God in everything I                    do. I love spending time with family and friends. We enjoy dining out, shopping and going to the movies.

Who or what inspires you to keep going?

I am a single mom with concerns for my children’s future. My children and all children are what inspires me to keep doing what I do.

Tell us one thing people don’t know about you and one thing everybody knows about you.

I find it difficult to make friends. And I will tell you the truth if you desire to hear it.

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