Advertisement
  1. Opinion

Voting should not be this hard in Florida | Column

Florida should make it easier, not harder, for voters in 2020, writes a new Florida State graduate.
Election day at the Coliseum for St. Petersburg municipal elections. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
Election day at the Coliseum for St. Petersburg municipal elections. [DIRK SHADD | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Dec. 13, 2019

The day I got my driver’s license was the same day I became a pre-registered voter in the state of Florida. All it took was filling out a short form at the DMV after I finished my driving test, which felt very quick and straightforward. Unfortunately, as I began to engage more in politics, I learned that this process was not straightforward at all for many people in Florida.

In November 2018, I stood in line at Florida State’s sole campus voting station, where I had cast my first-ever ballot in 2016. This time, I was told that since I no longer lived on campus I would have to travel to my new polling place in a different part of the city. Later, I learned about other issues that peers had faced when trying to vote — including that a few of my friends were almost prevented from early voting due to a parking rule that was later declared unconstitutional. While awaiting the election results that night, I heard on the news that thousands of ballots had been lost. I had always felt motivated by my belief that every person’s vote mattered, but I was now seeing evidence that that wasn’t really the case.

Thankfully, we are making progress. In 2018, Floridians voted decisively to restore voting rights to 1.4 million formerly incarcerated people. The decision represented a second chance at civic participation for people whose rights had been stripped away unjustly and a rejection of a racist policy that largely targets people of color. Unfortunately, it also wasn’t the end of the story. The Legislature attempted to add a caveat to that bill by requiring all court fines and fees to be paid prior to the restoration of voting rights, which amounts to a modern-day poll tax that would disenfranchise people. While that bill was temporarily blocked, the fight for the rights of our fellow citizens must continue.

Stefanie Caros

How can we make this process easier? We can ensure early voting is an option regardless of the number of parking spots available. We can advocate for solutions that have worked in other states, including same-day voter registration, the use of student IDs as valid identification, and an increase in the number of on-campus polling stations. We can also ensure that the amendment that over 64 percent of Floridians voted to pass is enacted without exceptions, and that we provide accessible resources that ensure people impacted by this law are aware of the steps they need to take to regain their rights. The criminal justice system itself is already skewed to disenfranchise certain populations and tying this broken system to participation in our democracy perpetuates a persistent cycle of inequality.

I believe that Florida has the opportunity to be a leader by making positive changes to our electoral system— and we can start by ensuring that each and every person is given the right to vote. As we head into 2020, it’s clear that the time to act on this issue is now.

Stefanie Caros is an intern at Generation Progress in Washington, D.C. A graduate of Florida State University, she is from Oldsmar.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Here’s what readers are saying in Sunday’s letters to the editor.
  2.  [Chip Bok -- Creators.com]
  3. Teachers and supporters march during the Florida Education Association's "Take on Tallahassee" rally at the Old Capitol in Tallahassee. [PHIL SEARS  |  AP]
    Here’s what readers are saying in Saturday’s letters to the editor.
  4. Florida's unemployment rate hit a record low in December. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File) [LYNNE SLADKY  |  AP]
    Nearly every major job sector posted gains from a year earlier.
  5. The entrance to Moffit Cancer Center in Tampa. [Courtesy of Moffitt Cancer Center]
    The secret jobs and payments provided by China to researchers at the University of Florida and Moffitt Cancer Center are greater than initially reported. A House committee should keep investigating.
  6. The Florida Aquarium celebrates its 25th year. And it has much to show for it.
    A magnet in Tampa Bay for tourism, conservation and regional growth.
  7. Mac Stipanovich
    Whether it’s regulating the collection of voter signatures on the front end or passing new laws on the back end, they seek to silence the voices of the governed.
  8. St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway and U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Florida, Maria Chapa Lopez, announced the Department of Justice awarded a $741,556 grant to the St. Petersburg Police Department for three years to create a regional Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force at the department. [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    The Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Force is a unique opportunity to bridge the gap of local law enforcement and reduce human trafficking.
  9. A rule proposed by the U.S. Department of Transportation this week would allow airlines to crack down on personal pets that are carried aboard as so-called service animals. [MARK SCHIEFELBEIN  |  AP]
    Trained dogs are fine. Pigs and turkeys—uh, no.
  10.  [Andy Marlette -- Pensacola News Journal]
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement