Florida Needs its Own Voting Rights Act

The Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Voting Rights Act of Florida (FLVRA)

Florida has a longstanding history and ongoing record of racial discrimination in voting and beyond. In the last ten years alone, Florida has passed several anti-voter laws and actively targeted fair and transparent democracy.

Florida can make history by enacting the Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Voting Rights Act of Florida (SB 1522 / HB 1035, “FLVRA”) which would be only the second State Voting Rights Act in the South. The FLVRA would strengthen democracy for everyone in the Sunshine state and remove numerous obstacles to the ballot box that eligible voters of color currently face, and that have burdened voting rights throughout the state’s troubled history.

The FLVRA builds on the foundations of the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as successful state Voting Rights Acts enacted in New York, Connecticut, California, Oregon, Washington, and Virginia. If enacted, the FLVRA would become the most comprehensive state Voting Rights Acts in the nation.

Florida Voters Face Persistent Barriers and Discrimination

Florida voters of color face severe racial discrimination in voting. Anti-voter laws and government decisions continue to result in racial disparities in voter registration and voter turnout. Anti-voter laws have also created barriers to every step of the voting process, including restrictions on drop boxes, restrictions on vote-by-mail, a ranked choice voting ban, restrictions on election funding, and harsh penalties on organizations conducting community voter registration. Returning citizens, who had their right to vote restored by Amendment 4 to the Florida Constitution, are now left to discern whether they have paid all outstanding financial obligations specified within a sentencing document before registering to vote.

Conditions that can foster voting discrimination — such as unfairly drawn districts that weaken Black and Brown voting power, inaccessible polling locations, insufficient language assistance for voters who don’t speak English, and outright voter intimidation — endure throughout Florida. And many of Florida’s counties and cities use at-large election structures or district maps that impair the ability of voters of color to elect candidates of their choice or influence the outcome of elections.

The FLVRA Will Protect Voters of Color and Florida's Democracy

If enacted, the FLVRA will strengthen democracy in Florida. Key elements of the FLVRA include:

Prohibition Against Vote Denial and Dilution

Confronting vote dilution — which occurs in unfair districts that weaken or drown out Black and Brown voters’ voices — and addressing barriers that deny voting opportunities in a way that is efficient and effective for both voters and local governments within the state.

Preclearance

Launching a preclearance program administered by a new independent Florida Voting Rights Act Commission. This program will require local governments with records of discrimination to prove that certain voting changes won’t harm voters of color before they can go into effect.

Language Access

Expanding language assistance for voters with limited English proficiency so every voter can participate effectively.

Statewide Database

Implementing a central public repository for election and demographic data with the goal of fostering transparent, evidence-based practices in election administration.

Prohibition on Voter Intimidation, Deception, and Obstruction

Combatting voter intimidation, deception, and obstruction with new tools to empower voters to protect their rights.

Expansive Voter Access

Establishing a paid holiday for Election Day, same-day voter registration, automatic voter registration through the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and more.

Florida Commission on Offender Review

Protecting returning citizens from unfair prosecutions by creating a centralized database for returning citizens to determine voter eligibility.

The Time is Now

The continued and escalating threats of racial discrimination in voting in Florida make this a perilous time for our democracy. The Florida Voting Rights Act would go a long way to counteract both recent and historical efforts to diminish the voting power of Black Floridians. Florida can and should lead in protecting the right to vote and promoting inclusive democracy by adopting the Florida Voting Rights Act.

More on Voting Rights

Voting Rights

State VRAS can provide key protections to their constituents that prevent and guard against discriminatory voting practices and policies. Learn more about LDF’s work to advance state VRAs

LDF Original Content

A tandem approach of restoring and expanding federal voting rights legislation along with passing individual state VRAs is essential for providing the most robust voting protections for all voters.

Litigation

Challenging Florida's Restrictive Voting Law, S.B. 90

Filed in 2021, the lawsuit argues that S.B. 90 creates unnecessary barriers and burdens that disproportionately impact Black and Latinx voters, and voters with disabilities.

LDF's Report on the 2020 Election

Democracy Defended

2020 saw a dramatic increase in attempts to suppress the vote of Black, Latinx, and other minority-community voters. Democracy Defended captures and analyzes LDF’s work during the 2020 election season, including our Prepared to Vote and Voting Rights Defender initiatives. It provides documentation of barriers faced by Black voters in PTV/VRD focus states and solutions for policy makers, election administrators, and community members to implement to ensure fair access to the vote in future elections.

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