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Study: Florida’s policies are keeping hundreds of thousands from voting

The Center for American Progress has some ideas about how to increase voter turnout in the Sunshine State.

Florida is not making it easy enough for you to vote, according to a new report from the liberal Center for American Progress.

The new study, "Increasing Voter Participation in America: Policies to Drive Participation and Make Voting More Convenient," which was released Wednesday morning, details a number of policies states could enact to maximize voter turnout.

They include:

  • Automatic voter registration
  • Same-day voter registration
  • Pre-registration
  • Online registration
  • At-home voting
  • “No-excuse” absentee voting
  • Restoring voting rights to felons
  • Early voting

Florida only takes advantage of the four bolded policies, leaving untold hundreds of thousands of votes on the table every election cycle, CAP authors Danielle Root and Liz Kennedy write.

Take automatic voter registration (AVR) system, a system in which every Floridian would instantly be signed up to vote. (Only those who de-register would have their names taken off of state voter rolls.) Were such a policy to be enacted, Florida would instantly add almost 575,000 new voters, CAP estimates by extrapolating from data from Oregon's AVR system.

Another way for Florida to add hundreds of thousands of new voters? Change its policy of disenfranchising convicted felons, Root and Kennedy write, citing data from The Sentencing Project. Florida could enfranchise more than a quarter million people by giving the right to vote back to formerly incarcerated people — a figure about four times higher than the state with the next-most voters to gain.

Florida voters have an opportunity to change the state's controversial voting rights restoration process in 2018 via a ballot referendum that would amend the state Constitution. Progressive reforms like automatic voter registration are unlikely to pass Florida's Republican-controlled Legislature anytime soon.

Read more from PolitiFact: Understanding felon voting rights restoration

The CAP report goes into great detail about how certain reforms stand to benefit voter turnout in certain states, and why increased turnout is important to democracy. But Root and Kennedy caution that policies by themselves are not enough to get people to the polls. Making citizens care about the importance of voting — and aware of their options is also paramount.

"Strong civics education and integrated voter engagement programs can help to address widespread alienation by connecting voting to the issues that affect people's lives, by demystifying government, and by educating people on the electoral process and inviting them to participate," they write.

Read the entire report here.