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Major Press Conference in Tallahassee Today

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Message Kindra Muntz

Citizens groups from all over the state rallied in opposition to the dangerous voter suppression bill SB956 being fast-tracked through the Florida legislature at a press conference on the 4th Floor Rotunda of the Senate in Tallahassee this morning at 11:00 AM.
See the attached joint press release.  More organizations are signing on moment by moment.
Keep your calls going to legislators all over the state to VOTE NO on SB 956 and House companion bill PCB-EDCA 09-08.
Be sure to call House Speaker Larry Cretul  850-488-1450 and Senate President Jeff Atwater 850-487-5100 to stop the bills from going to the floor of the House and Senate, which could happen as early as Tuesday, April 21st in the House and Wednesday, April 22nd in the Senate.
Call your Representative and Senator to VOTE NO on the bills if they get to the floor.
House list of representatives:  http://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/representatives.aspx?SessionId=61
Senate list of senators:  http://www.flsenate.gov/Legislators/index.cfm?Tab=legislators&CFID=129871154&CFTOKEN=38926163

Then call Governor Charlie Crist at 850-488-4441 to VETO the bill, no matter how it is amended, if it gets to his desk.
These bills are bad for voters, bad for election integrity, and bad for democracy.
Thank you.
Kindra Muntz, President
Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE)
Co-Founder, Florida Voters Coalition
Member, VoteTrustUSA Leaders
Member, RoundTableOnVoting


Courtenay Strickland, Director of Public Policy, ACLU of Florida (305) 457-5422 cell or cstrickland@aclufl.org
Brad Ashwell, Legislative Advocate, Florida Public Interest Research Group, (850) 294-1008 cell or brad@floridapirg.org
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Numerous nonpartisan public interest organizations today called upon Florida Speaker of the House Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater to step up to their responsibility and prevent two voter suppression bills from reaching the floor of the state legislature’s chambers.  The groups said that the anti-voter legislation would spur lawsuits, trigger federal intervention and cause Florida to backslide toward the election debacle of 2000.
Among the diverse array of local, state and national groups opposing the legislation are the League of Women Voters of Florida, Florida State Conference NAACP, AARP, Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, Inc., Florida Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida, Democracía USA, Florida AFL-CIO, Florida Council of the Blind, Common Cause, Florida Immigrant Coalition, Advancement Project, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Miami-Dade Election Reform Coalition, Florida Fair Elections Coalition, Florida Voters Coalition, Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections, Broward Election Reform Coalition, SEIU
Florida, Equality Florida, Florida National Organization for Women, Central Florida Teamsters Union, Handicapped Adults of Volusia County (HAVOC), One Nation Volusia and Business and Professional Women of Florida.
“Instead of making it easier for citizens to register and vote, this legislation creates more barriers to the voting process and limits citizens’ involvement in elections and government.  Our constitutional rights are being trampled on by the imposition of crippling fines and burdensome reporting requirements on third party voter registration groups,” said Marilynn Wills, President of League of Women Voters of Florida.
“The way the public comment period and debate on these bills was shut down is illustrative of exactly what this legislation is designed to do – suppress citizen participation in our democratic process,” added Rich Templin, Communications Director for the Florida AFL-CIO.
Several of the groups speaking out today mobilized against Senator Alex Diaz de la Portilla’s strike-all committee amendment to Senate Bill 956, which was presented at last week’s April 16th meeting of the Senate Ethics & Elections Committee, but unfortunately most were limited to only one minute of testimony each. The next morning, in a House Council meeting, public comment was cut off entirely and representatives themselves had barely more than five minutes to debate the 81-page bill.  Despite the shameful rejection of input from the public and dearth of thoughtful consideration by the legislators, both the Senate Committee and the House Council
passed the legislation.
In addition to expressing concerns about the lack of opportunity for public input on the legislation, the groups objected to the bills’ content.
“Too many of our citizens have already suffered the loss of their vote – their voice – at the polls due to Florida’s past electoral problems,” said Adora Obi Nweze, President of the Florida State Conference NAACP.  “If passed, this legislation would make it more difficult for people to register to vote, vote on a regular (not provisional) ballot on Election Day, obtain nonpartisan voting rights information at the polls, and engage in other meaningful forms of civic participation such as through petition drives and registering through third-party voter registration drives. Civic participation is the backbone of our democratic process.  Why would we want to curtail that?” Nweze added.
Claims by politicians that there is a need to further restrict the types of IDs that are accepted for voter registration and at the polls to prevent fraud remain unsubstantiated, and the end result will be that more and more Floridians will be left out of the democratic process.
Howard Simon, Executive Director of the ACLU of Florida cautioned, “Spurious
allegations of voter fraud – in the absence of any evidence to support the allegations – cannot be used to further restrict voters’ rights. If this legislation should pass, we will be taking these egregious violations of Floridians’ rights to Attorney General Holder and the Department of Justice, and if needed, to the courts. The days of the Justice Department Voting Rights Division’s outright hostility to our most vulnerable voters are over.”
The groups also objected to a four-year extension on making accessible marksense (paper) ballots available to Florida voters who have disabilities.
Said Barry Shalinsky, Director of the Protection and Advocacy for Voting Access (PAVA) Program of the Advocacy Center for Persons with Disabilities, Inc., “There is no justification for relegating voters with disabilities to four more years of touch screen voting machines that have been deemed too untrustworthy for use by the rest of Florida’s voters.  Voters with disabilities should not have to endure four more years of second-class voting.”
Several provisions of the legislation will also spur litigation – further adding to the fiscal impact of the voter suppression legislation. The ACLU has already won part of the battle to stem incursions on voting rights in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Fort Myers leading up to last year’s primary election. The court enjoined enforcement of the 100-foot “no-solicitation” zone against groups gathering petition signatures from voters exiting the polling. The state has appealed this decision. “The ACLU of Florida is prepared to take this fight to court,” said Muslima Lewis, Senior Attorney and Director of the ACLU of Florida’s Voting Rights and Racial Justice Projects.
In addition, the State is still dealing with the effects of prior litigation concerning third-party voter registration rules that the League of Women Voters of Florida, along with Florida AFL-CIO, SEIU Florida and AFSCME, challenged in a lawsuit filed in 2006. A federal court in Miami blocked enforcement of the previous law restricting third-party voter registration, concluding that that law was unconstitutional.  The bill currently under consideration is significantly more restrictive, and if enacted, would likely prompt yet another lawsuit.
Meanwhile, the Florida Supreme Court’s decision is still pending concerning Sarasota voters’ passage of a local initiative requiring paper ballots.  The legislation’s provision granting additional powers to the Secretary of State could prevent voters from making similar decisions about their local voting process.
"Don't be fooled by minor amendments that may be offered to this dangerous bill,” said Kindra Muntz of the Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections.  “Its primary purpose is to give all power over elections to the Secretary of State.  The ramifications of such concentrated power will be devastating."
“Here we go again,” added Brad Ashwell, Legislative Advocate for Florida PIRG, in summing up the legislative proposal.  “Some of our elected officials are determined to squelch civic participation in our state.  It’s time for our Legislature’s leadership to say ‘not this time’ and instead choose to keep our state on the right track – the track that preserves our democratic process.”
The proposed changes to Florida’s voting and elections laws would:
- Expand the “no-solicitation zone,” creating a constantly shifting zone that would be impossible to enforce and further restricts voters’ ability to receive important nonpartisan voting rights information at the polling place; 
- Further limits acceptable IDs, without proposing acceptable alternatives, preventing eligible citizens from registering to vote, and properly registered voters from exercising their right to vote; 
 Force more voters to vote by provisional ballots, which have a higher rate of
- Increase the frequency of “list maintenance programs” causing more validly
registered voters to be removed from the voter rolls; 
 -Extend the deadline for making accessible paper (marksense) ballots available for disabled Floridians, relegating voters with disabilities to four additional years of voting on second class touch screen voting systems; 
- Impose unnecessary and onerous restrictions on third-party voter registration groups. This would have the direct effect of decreasing electoral participation by Floridians who are significantly more likely to register through these drives, especially eligible Black and Latino voters; and 
- Impose unnecessary and onerous restrictions on groups that collect citizen petitions for ballot measures, making it harder for regular citizens – as compared to well-financed corporate interests – to get measures on the ballot.
 -Pre-empt some powers granted to county supervisors of elections in favor of concentrating greater power in the hands of the Secretary of State. ###

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Kindra Muntz formed the nonpartisan Political Action Committee, Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections (SAFE) in January, 2006 to preserve freedom and democracy through verified elections, after two years of research on the problems of electronic (more...)
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