This guest blog post was written by Karen Wilkerson, member of the League of Women Voters of Palm Beach County.
On May 6, 2019, the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections visited Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to hold a field hearing on voting rights and elections. I was proud to represent the League of Women Voters of Florida as a testifying witness in the hearing.
I was pleased to see so many of our Congressional Representatives present for the hearing, and I was especially impressed with Subcommittee Chair Marcia Fudge’s leadership. She was courteous to all but kept the attendees focused on voter suppression and the need to address the problem areas of our election system.
As one of eight guests invited to testify, I was joined by representatives from organizations like Common Cause and Mi Familia Vota, who also advocate for the advancement and protection of voting rights in Florida. Some important issues they raised included the need to have ballots in Spanish and Creole and the use of fear tactics that keep people from the polls.
I was pleased to answer a question from Representative Wasserman-Schultz about gerrymandering, given that LWV of Florida fought for and achieved fair maps in Florida courts and by an amendment to the Florida Constitution. While it’s true that these efforts led to more representative democracy for Florida voters, the trend of voter suppression tactics like gerrymandering greatly discourages voters from participating in the democratic process. It is of the upmost importance that our election systems outlaw suppression tactics so that voters will have confidence that their voices will be heard.
Overall, I was grateful to be asked to participate in this important hearing and to provide evidence for needed improvements to our election system in Florida.
Some excerpts from my prepared testimony:
The League believes that voting is a fundamental right protected by our U.S. Constitution. Any attempts to suppress votes is an invasion of democracy.
Several years ago, Florida produced a purge list that included the names of voters who were rightfully entitled to vote. This was a shameful act that should never happen again.
We support the use of early voting sites, and extended hours at election locations. In Palm Beach County and many other counties in Florida, the Supervisors of Elections have located voting machines in elderly living facilities and homeowners’ associations of large developments. We commend these moves.
Confusion occurs when early voting sites are not available for voting on election day. Long lines are particularly troublesome in Florida because we are apt to have hot temperatures, rain, etc. while people wait outside polling locations.
In Florida the League has been certified to register voters. We take this responsibility seriously and make sure that we train our workers well.
To assist voters, the League prints and makes available digitally a publication called VOTERS GUIDE which provides voting information, pros and cons on proposals, answers from candidates on hot topic issues. We also hold candidate forums throughout the state so that voters can get to know the candidates. We hold forums on judicial candidates as well. Our organization is nonpartisan so we never endorse a candidate or political party. It would help if municipal, county, and state governments assisted in the funding for these types of voter information publications.