The bipartisan election-reform commission established by President Obama will meet for a day in Miami — the focal point for the state’s most-recent election meltdown. The Presidential Commission on Election Administration is scheduled to meet all day Friday, June 28 at the University of Miami to take testimony and public comments from local, county and state election officials and citizens, a notice published Wednesday in the Federal Register said. “The [commission] was established to identify best practices and make recommendations to the President on the efficient administration of elections in order to ensure that all eligible voters have the opportunity to cast their ballots without undue delay,” the notice said, “and to improve the experience of voters facing other obstacles in casting their ballots.”
Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old North Miami voter who became a symbol of Florida’s elections woes, could again find it tough to cast a ballot now that the Republican-controlled state Senate voted Tuesday to keep a crack down on foreign-language interpreters at the polls. The Senate maintained the last-minute measure on what appeared to be a party-line voice vote while debating a bill designed to reverse the effects of an election law that helped create long lines and suppress the vote in 2012. On Election Day at Victor’s polling station, there weren’t enough interpreters for the Creole-speaking native of Haiti and hundreds like her. Turnout was heavy. And lines lasted for hours — partly due to a slew of proposed state Constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature.
The Florida House on Tuesday voted – once again – to overhaul the state’s elections law, this time by partly undoing changes from 2011 that were blamed for confusion and long lines at the polls in the last election. On the first day of the annual legislative session, House members approved 118-1 a bill (HB 7013) that increases the permitted days of early voting from eight to 14. It allows early-voting polling places at more kinds of sites, like fairgrounds, civic centers and convention centers. And it sets a 75-word limit on proposed initial ballot summaries to constitutional amendments. The bill also restores the possibility of early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, when blacks often vote after church in a tradition known as “souls to the polls.”
The 2012 presidential election was about as bad as it gets for voting, in too many states. It is unfathomable, not to mention deeply embarrassing, that the world’s most modern democracy would have voters standing in line for hours on end to exercise this fundamental franchise. Television images of the lines in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida (among other states) were shown around the world. While the problems causing the long voting lines were not uniform, more often than not the situation was traceable to calculated efforts by Republican officials who deliberately changed (or administered) the law to make it difficult for predominately Democratic voters, hoping to discourage their voting. The good news is that it did not work. Because the problem was well-publicized, inconvenienced Democrats defied the efforts to disenfranchise them, and waited for however long was required to cast their ballot. President Obama commented on the lines and problems on Election Night; he mentioned them again in his Inaugural Address; and most recently, they also played a role in his State of the Union speech, poignantly highlighting the plight of Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old Florida woman seated in the Galley of the House of Representatives’ chamber during the speech, as a guest of First Lady Michelle Obama. The President explained that Ms. Victor had been forced to stand in line for three hours at her local library in North Miami to cast her ballot. Most everyone in the Chamber literally gasped at the awful situation, but that doesn’t mean Republicans will do anything to solve it.
Of all the things that deserve the federal government’s focus right now, the last is the reform of election laws. Yes, it’s shameful that 102-year-old Desiline Victor of Miami faced a six-hour-long line when she showed up to vote last November. Indeed, as many as 201,000 frustrated Floridians left the polls before voting that day, according to an analysis by an Ohio State researcher for the Orlando Sentinel. So on election night, President Obama was right to say “we have to fix that.” But during his State of the Union address, at which Victor was an invited guest, the president was wrong to suggest a federal fix for standardizing how elections are held across the country. A one-size-fits-all formula is not the most effective and efficient way to manage elections from Miami, which experienced long lines, to Milton in Florida’s Panhandle, which did not.
Barack Obama has ordered the creation of a non-partisan commission on voting rights in the US in an attempt to remove the hurdles to democratic participation that dogged the 2012 presidential election. The announcement of the commission on voting puts flesh on the promise Obama made in his second inaugural speech last month to fix America’s broken voting system. Last November, voters in main urban centres were inconvenienced by long lines at polling stations that in some areas forced citizens to wait for hours before casting their ballot. Florida, in particular, witnessed chaotic scenes with more than 200,000 voters estimated to have given up having waiting because the queues were so long. Obama said that the impediments to voting needed to be corrected, as voting was “our most fundamental right as citizens. When Americans – no matter where they live or what their party – are denied that right simply because they can’t wait for five, six, seven hours just to cast their ballot, we are betraying our ideals.” The president added: “We can fix this, and we will. The American people demand it. And so does our democracy.”
At tonight’s State of the Union address, Michelle Obama will be joined by 102-year-old Desiline Victor, who, like many in Florida and elsewhere, waited hours to vote on Election Day. “By the way,” Obama said in his election speech. “We have to fix that.” But how to fix it remains unclear. Though new research on states’ performance in the November election reveals long lines kept thousands from voting, there’s still much we don’t know about what would best speed up the process. Victor’s home state of Florida had the longest average wait timeof any state at 45 minutes. Victor waited for three hours. Other Floridians reported standing in line for up to 7 hours. Not every voter had Victor’s stamina: Professor Theodore Allen at Ohio State University estimated that long lines in Florida deterred at least 201,000 people, using a formula based on voter turnout data and poll closing time. The number only includes people discouraged by the wait at their specific polling site, and not those who stayed home due to “the general inconvenience of election day.” The real number, Allen says, is likely much higher. One study also showed that black and Hispanic voters nationwide waited longer on average than white voters.
National: State of the Union guest Desiline Victor, 102, will be the face of voting delays at address | The Washington Post
When she set out to her local library in North Miami, Fla., to cast her vote in the presidential election last year, Desiline Victor had no way of knowing the journey would lead all the way to the White House. On Tuesday night, Victor, a 102-year-old Haitian immigrant, will sit in the ornate House chamber as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama to listen to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Victor voted for the president, but it was not easy. On her first visit to the polls on the morning of Oct. 28, the first day of early voting, she waited in line for three hours. Poll workers eventually advised her to come back later, and she did. She finally cast her vote that evening. Her story spread around the polling place and inspired some would-be voters to stay in line, too, instead of being deterred by the delays.