Voting rights advocates have registered more than 100,000 voters prior to the state’s registration deadline, despite extensive efforts by state officials to limit new registrations for Florida citizens.
Florida New Majority, SEIU Florida State Council, Florida Mi Familia Vota, Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC), Florida National Action Network and the National Council of La Raza collaborated for the registration milestone. The majority of the registrations occurred in the month before the state’s Oct. 9 registration deadline and after a federal judge’s late summer decision to overturn a new state law that placed restrictions on groups involved in voter registration drives.
“Ultimately, the effort to limit voter registration was overturned by the courts, but defeated by the work of people committed to ensuring every eligible voter has the opportunity to vote in the upcoming election,” said Gihan Perera, executive director of Florida New Majority. “Today, 100,000 more people will be able to exercise their right to participate in their democracy.”
The purpose of the new law’s was made clear with the resulting drop in registrations. According to one news report, registrations over the past two presidential cycles averaged more than 200,000 new Democrats in the year before the election (July 1 to July 31). This year, that number had fallen to just over 11,000.
The law was so restrictive that it led the state to threaten a New Smyrna Beach high school teacher with thousands of dollars in fines as a result of registering her students to vote in 2011.
“As Americans, we cherish the right to vote and it is thrilling, especially for new citizens, to be active participants in electing our political leaders,” said Yulissa M. Arce, Mi Familia Vota’s Florida State Coordinator. “After the state created purge lists filled with errors and the attempts to curtail registrations, Latinos in Florida are even more committed not only to registering, but to voting in 2012.”
The registration totals show that eligible voters are determined to participate in the election, despite a flurry of activity by legislators and state officials to limit access to voting, said Kathy Bird of the Florida Immigrant Coalition (FLIC).
“Despite these organized efforts to curb Latino participation through restrictions on third-party groups and voter purges, NCLR is proud to have been able to register over 54,000 Hispanics to vote in the upcoming election,” said Jared Nordlund, Deputy Director, Field Campaigns. “Now we look forward to turning our efforts to encouraging Florida Hispanics to take advantage of voting early and ensuring their votes count.”
“During the past month, we have worked with voters in various counties in Florida inviting them to stand up for their families and communities and vote,” Bird said. “In the weeks before the election, we will be working with voters to make sure they have all the information they need and that they feel empowered to go to the polls.”
This month, Florida New Majority and SEIU Florida State Council, Florida Mi Familia Vota and (FLIC) will turn their attention to early voting, which begins Oct. 27. Voters can also vote by absentee ballot, which can be requested through local supervisors of election.
Any voters facing challenges with registration or with voting can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE for assistance or 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota for the assistance in Spanish.