HB 1355 rescinded the nearly 40-year old right of Florida voters to change their address at their polling station and vote on a regular ballot, relegating those voters to provisional ballots instead. In 2008, 51% of provisional ballots went uncounted. The bill also reduced early voting while requiring groups that register voters, like student governments, to register with the state for permission to conduct voter registration activities. Furthermore, it reduced the 10 day deadline for turning in voter registration forms to 48 hours with a penalty of steep fines for violators, among other barriers disguised as solutions. Naturally, such conditions only make it more difficult for the mobile and underrepresented student and youth constituency to vote.
As a result, FSA is supporting HB 1189 by Rep. Mark Pafford which repeals the barriers of HB 1355 and extends early voting. Additionally, FSA is supporting SB 516 by Sen. Nan Rich which would expand early voting access including permitting the use of university campuses as early voting locations, and calling for same-day voter registration. Despite the remark by HB 1355 co-sponsor, Rep. Dennis Baxley, that “Election Day is not a voter registration event,” eight states and the District of Columbia offer some form of same-day voter registration. Florida has already implemented a $30 million statewide voter database which could enable such an endeavor.
Regarding the adoption of the position, Chairman of the Florida Student Association Michael Long said that, “Students are citizens and voters of the State of Florida, and as such, demand accessibility and fairness with regards to Florida's election laws. The Florida Student Association recognizes that Florida's students and younger generations are not involved in the selection of our state leaders. This is incredibly important given that higher education has become, and continues to become, less and less of a priority in the state's budgeting process. In order for students to be adequately represented, we have to have greater access and involvement in the selection of our representatives.”
In late 2011, the same position on the issue was adopted by FSA’s state college counterparts, the Florida College System Student Government Association (FCSSGA), representing Florida’s 1 million state and community college students. The position was initially moved by the Student Government Association of Palm Beach State College's Boca Raton campus after a FLIER presentation on HB 1355.
FLIER commends Florida’s youth and students for opposing unnecessary barriers to voting while offering constructive alternatives that protect voting rights, and improve access to voting, in the interests of all Floridians.
This will be among the issues university students will be pushing for at FSA’s Rally in Tally on Thursday, January 26th.
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The Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform is a non-partisan group of concerned citizens recognizing the need for electoral reforms to build representative democracy in our state and nation.