To the Editor:
Does your vote count in Florida? The answer is an emphatic YES.
I can say this because of the recent passage of two bills by the legislature (SB 90 and SB 524) and signed into law by the governor. Although Florida had a smooth election in 2020 with even DeSantis boasting about it, if your vote did not count, there would be no need to make voting so much harder by passage of these laws. A few of the provisions of the more recent law – SB 524 – shows how our right to vote is being deliberately targeted. SB 524 establishes an Office of Election Crimes and Security (the election fraud police) to look into voting irregularities or illegalities at a cost of about $3 million despite the fact in 2020, a year in which 18.1 million ballots were cast in statewide primaries and the general election that included nearly 300 races, the secretary of state’s voter fraud hotline received only 262 complaints and referred only 75 to the police or prosecutors. SB 524 also stiffens criminal penalties for “ballot harvesting.” The penalty for ballot harvesting is increased from a first-degree misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $5,000 fine and up to five years’ probation.
Ballot harvesting is the practice of a person or organization collecting a number of completed mail ballots from other people (e.g. from residents of nursing homes, attendees at churches, and people living in senior living centers) and delivering them to an elections office or drop box. SB 524 smacks down and bans statewide, including cities and counties, ranked-choice voting, which prevents voters from even hearing about it or deciding to adopt it. In a ranked-choice voting system, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots rather than selecting just one. There are other provisions in SB 524 and I encourage you to read them. I have not included any provisions in the SB 90 legislation as a federal judge recently, after a two-week trial, struck down some provisions as unconstitutional. That ruling is on appeal. However, I do encourage you to read the legislation and the ruling.
Dorothy Stephens Duncan
Village of St. Charles