On Wednesday the League of Women Voters of Florida stood on the steps of the Historic Capitol with partner organizations denouncing bills currently being heard by the state Legislature that threaten democracy in Florida.
Legislation discussed included SB 7086 and HB 7089 which would undermine Amendment 4, SB 7096 and HB 7111 which would impose heavy restrictions on citizen initiative petition gatherers, and SB 232 and HB 57 which would raise the vote threshold required to pass a constitutional amendment from an already onerous 60 percent to 66 and two-thirds percent.
“By passing Amendment 4, voters made it clear they supported the restoration of voting rights to 1.4 million returning citizens. But here we are again, predictably seeing more chicanery from our Legislature with the filing of bills that attempt to thwart the intentions of the amendment,” said Patricia Brigham, president of the League. “This is not what democracy looks like. The citizen initiative process is vital to our democracy. When lawmakers fail to act to pass responsible legislation, voters have no recourse but to take matters into their own hands.”
“Any legislation that seeks to limit the amount of people eligible to vote pursuant to Amendment 4 is not just an attack on Amendment 4 — it’s an attack on democracy,” said Jessica Younts, vice president and director of operations for the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition. “We will continue to fight for full implementation of Amendment 4 and continue to put people over politics,” Younts continued.
“With over 5 million votes from across the state, the passage of Amendment 4 proved that Floridians believe in second chances and the importance of increasing access to the ballot box. The right to vote is and should be a nonpartisan issue,” said Kara Gross, legislative director of ACLU of Florida. “Not only are legislators attempting to undermine Amendment 4, they are attempting to undermine the entire citizen initiative process that led to its passing.”
“The fact that we have to be here today is offensive to the over 5 million people who voted in favor of Amendment 4. We not only ask, we demand that our legislators do the right thing and actually represent the people, rather than coming to Tallahassee and doing what they want. That is not why they were elected, and that is not why they should be reelected,” said Nancy Abudu, deputy legal director of the Voting Rights Program at the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Rich Templin of Florida AFL-CIO remarked on HB 7111 and SB 7096, which would place heavy restrictions on petition gatherers in Florida. “There are a lot of people saying complex things about this legislation. It has one purpose: to stop the citizens from being able to rally together and amend the Constitution when the Legislature fails to act. And they don’t have the decency to be open and honest about it. They are not asking the voters, ‘Do you want to kill the citizens’ initiative?’ It’s death by a thousand paper cuts.”
“A sentence is something that is given by a judge alone. This is something that citizens understood and it has not changed,” said Cecile Scoon, First Vice President of the League. “The sentence given by a judge is what must be completed — not something added on by the Department of Corrections, the Division of Offender Review, or any other administrative agency that is attempting to collect their costs. But that is what this Amendment 4 legislation is promoting.”
“A government of the people, by the people, for the people? I don’t think so. That is not what is happening in the state of Florida,” said Reverend Don Tolliver of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church in Tallahassee. “Legislation without demonstration is devastation. We all must understand: one person, one vote.”