Every two years, shortly after the excitement of the Fourth of July fireworks begins to fade, our focus in Florida turns to our election season, with a primary election set for August and the general election in November. On Independence Day, we celebrated our anniversary of liberation from a tyrannical monarchy and the creation of a democracy. One of the things that we celebrate, and that many Americans hold dear, is our right to vote.
Our foundational document, our U.S. Constitution, reflects our Founding Fathers’ competing and conflicting concepts of liberty. Although our founders bravely risked their lives to seek freedom from a monarch who levied taxes but allowed no representation, they did not grant equal freedom to all regardless of gender or race. The right to vote was initially limited to white men who owned property. Women were considered chattel and those of African descent who were enslaved were considered goods and counted as three-fifths of a person. It took hundreds of years, a bloodletting of civil war and the commitment of visionary abolitionists and suffragettes to end slavery and secure voting rights for most.
After so many years of citizens toiling to make voting in America freer and fairer, the tide has turned and there now is a concerted effort in Florida and across the nation to make voting more difficult. The work of the last 250-plus years is being undone right before our eyes. There is an increasingly loud demand to limit voting rights and to draw politicized redistricting lines that silence the voices of racial and language minorities.
Since the 2020 election, Florida has enacted laws that make voting more difficult for the average citizen. These laws include provisions that make voting by mail and registering to vote more burdensome. The laws also reduce the availability of the widely used ballot drop boxes (now dubbed Secure Ballot Intake Stations), modify rules for observers in ways that could disrupt election administration, and restrict the ability to provide food and water to voters waiting in line. At the same time, Florida has enacted a gerrymandered congressional map, drawn by Gov. Ron DeSantis, which I believe violates multiple provisions of the voter-approved Fair Districts Amendments to the Florida Constitution, including diminishing minority voting representation and favoring one political party.
Those who fought so hard to provide civil and voting rights for all must be turning in their graves as they see these new attempts to thwart our democracy. We cannot allow the hard-fought battles for equality and fairness to be brushed aside as if they never existed. These harsh new voting laws, politicized redistricting, and even the destruction of the rights to the freedom found in Roe v. Wade, are terrifying projections of a new world shorn of many rights and freedoms that most of us hold dear.
So, what can one do to help? The bottom line is this: Our democracy depends on the participation of the people. How does one best participate in our democracy? Vote. Vote like your life depends on it. Vote in every election and vote your values.
The League of Women Voters encourages all voters to vote early if possible — either in person or by mail — because it relieves polling places from extra-long lines on Election Day. Consider putting together a voting plan to help you make sure you get to the polls with all the information you need.
Need help voting with your voting plan? A product of the League of Women Voters Education Fund, VOTE411.org has served tens of millions of voters and won multiple national awards over the last 15 years. VOTE411.org has long been a trusted source of objective and nonpartisan election information — your “one-stop shop” for everything about elections.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Whichever way you choose to vote this year, know that by doing so you are fulfilling the single most important feature of our democracy. In this time of great political divide, voting brings us together as Americans. Democracy is not just for the few, but is owed to everyone.
Cecile M. Scoon is the president of the League of Women Voters of Florida and a practicing civil rights attorney.